camhanaich (n) [pronounced kav'-an-ach.] A Scots-Gaelic word meaning the half-light of dawn or dusk.

At first light,
before the day can begin
its busy work of particulars,
a golden gesture greets
those who meet the possibility of morning.
The sun will warm the journey …

About the poem

This poem appeared in the first issue of A Restricted View from Under the Hedge by Hedgehog Press.

It was inspired by the title; pronounced kav'-an-ach, camhanaich is a Scots-Gaelic word meaning the half-light of dawn or dusk. I was enchanted by the idea that these times of day may share enough similarities to share a word. The ideas that followed were thoughts of liminal times, when there is perhaps more space to breathe and take in the world in all its arresting beauty.

I am fascinated by words, the magic and meaning held within them. It’s the reason I am a poet, and the reason I read so much. I’m always hungry for new words, and while I was working on my dissertation, I read Robert Macfarlane’s book Landmarks. I can’t recommend it enough, it’s a beautiful book of nature writing which seeks to ensure that many of the traditional words used to describe the landscape are recorded and valued. Keeping hold of the language is a way we can keep hold of and maintain our precious environment, and this book not only makes the case for better conservation and provides insight into the work of a number of major nature writers, it also includes an invaluable glossary of incredible words. It has become as essential as a dictionary to my writing process, each new word I learn can spark an idea or aid a description and helps to keep the heritage alive.

That, I think, is the sense I was trying to convey in this poem as I sought to capture the feeling of something very precious to be treasured.

By Robert Macfarlane