Makar’s poem shines light on refugees in Scotland

A Syrian family arrives at their new home on the Isle of Bute. Picture: Getty Images
A Syrian family arrives at their new home on the Isle of Bute. Picture: Getty Images
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ONE OF Scotland’s foremost contemporary poets has said the way to defeat terrorists who rule by violence is to do the opposite of what they ­expect and welcome Syrian refugees into the country.

Edinburgh Makar Christine De Luca said that the refugee crisis “came crashing into” her latest work.

Christina De Luca says hearts and minds, not bombs, bring change. Picture: Andrew O'Brien

Christina De Luca says hearts and minds, not bombs, bring change. Picture: Andrew O'Brien

Her latest poem ‘Bearing Light’ was initially about the ancient Feast of the Assumption of Mary torchlight parade in Sardinia.

“That made me think of the Riding of the Marches here, the parades in Northern Ireland and how so much of it can be about marking out your territory, letting people know that it is someone else’s territory and making them feel that they are ‘not allowed here’. Yet despite these frightening barriers refugees are still making this hazardous journey to flee oppression.

“In terms of the terrorists who want to drive a wedge between people of Muslim faith and everyone else, we have to nobble them by doing the extreme opposite by being more welcoming and look for more opportunities to be more integral. Europe has been found really wanting in its systems for dealing with people.”

De Luca added: “It’s hearts and minds which will change things, not bombs and bullets. We need to let light into the mind.”

Suzi Maciver, arts and cultural development officer at the Scottish Refugee Council, said: “Literature and the arts can help us to make sense of and see fresh perspectives on complicated issues such as the refugee crisis.

“Christine De Luca’s poem offers an alternative narrative to war in encouraging us to welcome refugees as an act of resistance.”

Colin Waters, communications manager at the Scottish Poetry Library, said poets have a valued ability to make an immediate comment on current affairs.

“Poetry is a nimble art. It only needs a poet and a voice. It doesn’t even need a pen and a pencil. Think of what it takes to put a play on. Consider how long it takes for a novelist to move from his first idea to publication. Imagine the expense of making even a short film.

“Poems, however, can be written quickly and spread even faster. In a world where events move fast, it is the poets who are best placed to pen the first artistic response to them.

“Christine De Luca’s poem ‘Bearing Light’ is a case in point. The Edinburgh Makar has form in this area. Her poem ‘The Morning After’, a conciliatory poem written to heal the wounds of the Referendum campaign, took on a life of its own as the vote neared and rhetoric reached boiling point.

“Christine has brought all of her lyrical gifts and compassion to an imaginative appraisal of the refugee crisis.

“As her poem reminds us, the crisis is both a physical trial for fleeing Syrians – and a moral test for us.

“Perhaps Christine herself is one of the ‘Bearers of Light’ she writes about, helping us to see better the situation we are in together.”

Bearing Light by Christine De Luca

Not even five centuries can snuff out Sardinia’s

Candelieri, gratitude for the plague’s ending.

Sassari youths stagger under the precious burdens,

one per guild – cobblers, smiths – then step adeptly,

as lightning rods through crowds, to a steady drum.

We too mark borders of our trading guilds,

spheres of influence: horses ride out, banners raised,

bonfires lit. It’s pageant now: a flicker of history;

embers of memory, of pride and sacrifice. Times

pass – till son et lumière, a play of light suffices.

But still there’s darkness: nihilism, wintering,

a quenching of any kindly flame. Uprooted

from hearths, a plagued people is groping its way,

testing our boundaries of humanity; seeking

a welcome, the slightest spark of hope.