Kayaking North of 77 Degrees
Published by Hidden Brook Press.
After lunch with the Inuit at Nunatarssuaq, we enter the open water of the fjord again, rounding Kingingneq Peninsula’s bulbous nose, before crossing to a campsite on the east end of Qeqertat Island for the night.
The horizon wavers.
Inside the sweet interference of precious light
tall ice rises quietly out of the fields of glass.
Here the mountain lies down beside sky,
your kayak intersecting the sea-plains
in the translucent flush of late afternoon.
Strained by too much beauty,
reason wants to lose its way:
this benediction in the timeless moment
making explicit the world without shadow;
here the promise we had hoped for
replenishing the soul’s gape;
here the pattern, a reminder of the whole
we can’t quite grasp
and through the desolation
a return to the work that grows the heart.
Bending down to brace his weight
upon the paddle’s shaft laid flat
between the rocks and slender bow,
he steps inside and sits – the kayak
angled at his hips, his bloodied anorak
and boat the white of soiled ice.
In the middle of the night the hunters came
and pitched two tents – a watch kept watch
and hollered when he saw the whales swim up-fjord.
They launch two kayaks light as snow, shake loose
the mirrored mountains, passive sky. A harpoon thrown
to test the eye then stowed upon the deck.
A blizzard of white-clad arms quickens
and the hunters’ paddles fly, their gazes fixed
on the glacier’s blasted face, invisible
behind the countries made of ice. Their camouflage
complete, white seabirds both and decoy-still
they idle now, wait the rise and dive of glistening backs,
the synchrony of narwhal. They come
in pods of five. Black arcs. And from the vantage
of the shore their blowing seen as mist. Harpoons drawn,
the hunters poise to kill. No arm release
until the range is right – too cool for false moves.
One pod passes out to sea. The other too.
But later at another camp, a mighty ton is towed
to shore, first deep cut and crimson spill upon the stones.
A whale is drawn and quartered now, flensers sheathed,
and in the cache of circled rocks, the livid meat.
Savour the white of the margins here as it holds this distinct and reverent prose to its itinerary along an edge between poetry & journal. Clewes shares soakers and awe.
We follow her Nowhere, eagerly. This is going too far, thankfully. This is risk for song.
~ Phil Hall
Rosemary Clewes is one of those rare gems that, if you’re lucky, you discover in the most unlikely of places. Her spirit brims with the thrill of exploration, and yet she calmly absorbs every detail. In this book, she explores the edges − the edge of centuries-old ice, the edge of the world, the edge of her world − and finds miracles live at the frontier of one’s reality. She brings to her explorations a practised eye, an intelligent mind, the newcomer’s sensibilities, and an insight inclined to the metaphysical. If you have an adventurous spirit, or admire those who do, this is the book for you.
~ David F. Pelly, Arctic traveller, & author of Thelon − A River Sanctuary and Sacred Hunt
In Canada’s Arctic Journal, above & beyond magazine, David F. Pelly wrote an article entitled Soul Searching by Qajaq. Of the writer’s kayaking trip to the North West coast of Greenland he writes:
“SHE HAD NEVER UNDERTAKEN SUCH AN EXPEDITION BEFORE, WOULD NOT CLAIM TO BE EXPERT IN A KAYAK. SHE WAS THERE, SHE SAYS, TO HAVE “SOME CONVERSATIONS WITH THE LAND.”
The Polar Times is the twice-yearly journal of the American Polar Society.
Thule Explorer: Kayaking North of 77 Degrees reviewed by Herbert R. Drury. He writes:
“Readers will find a thoughtful discourse on her inner feelings almost as much as her extensive descriptions of scenery or events encountered with her small band of ‘modern day explorers.”
and a request…
“Thank you for the book and the added manuscript.. I found myself enraptured reading Thule Explorer the other day, as well as the other poems. Your deep sensitivity to landscape and meaning… beautiful.
For the purposes of my music, I was particularly caught by a poem in the chapter Short Cut to God. I love the sentence leading into these poems, and was wondering if I could include as part of the words for an art song…”
The saxifrage blooming around my bed-for-a-night is already spirit –its long-lasting flowers, a kind of decorative innocence.
For it is innocence, isn’t it?
The moment before green speaks its name
or declares its intentions;
before form decides to be itself
or its own reflection.
Its when the whole body laughs.
I pray that the alchemical winds
will love me more than I deserve,
each breeze a new pipe dream for tomorrow.
I own the thought
that I am looking for a shortcut to God.
~ Peter Skoggard