Read Kathleen Jamie’s contribution to Edinburgh’s Message From The Skies

Message from the Skies returns to Edinburgh this month, with five celebrated writers reflecting on Scotland’s relationship with our waters, coasts and maritime heritage. Their words will illuminate and animate landmarks around the city until Burns Night, 25 January. Here, Kathleen Jamie reflects on the lonely existence of a wave buoy...

Kathleen Jamie's words are projected beside the Union Canal, Fountainbridge as part of Message From the Skies

Seascape with WEC, by Kathleen Jamie

Those five cardinal wave-rider buoys

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The i newsletter cut through the noise

                                                               -yellow and black-

visible from the clifftop,

transmit back

                                            -in real time-

a live data stream: wave height, period,

                                                                          direction, etc.

They mark a deep-water

                                               wave test site, where,

now riding high, now

                                                lost in a trough, a single

yellow-hulled prototype WEC

                                           is doing ok – surviving

even 18-metre waves

                                          as it generates

its mite of electricity

                                       for our all-consuming grid.

-But oh, to be tested so!

                                         Pitched out there alone

against the wild Atlantic!

                                            Oh to be so appraised!

And when you fail,

                                           have engineers lie awake at night,

loving you like a child. 

Devised by Edinburgh’s Hogmanay in partnership with the Edinburgh International Book Festival, this year’s Message From the Skies is subtitled Shorelines and marks Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 with texts by five leading writers reflecting on our relationship with our coasts, waters and maritime heritage projected onto buildings around the city. Produced in association with Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust and supported by Creative Scotland through the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund, these literary illuminations continue until Burns Night on 25 January. For more information, visit