Pictish Beast

There is a beast swimming in the belly of the earth,
crouched in the salt-water of waiting.

It slithered out from all the stories - words
long since torn into shreds by claws

drawing the sly lines of a crowded mouth
beaked into a smile, carving the long tail ...

About the poem

This poem appeared in The London MagazineApril/May 2016 edition.

This poem formed part of my MA Dissertation, in which I examined the physical and culture clash between native Britons and Romans in Ancient Britain. The topic allowed me to undertake fieldwork and travel across Britain looking at artefacts from the era. There are numerous extant carvings of the Pictish Beast and it is something that fascinates me because historians remain uncertain about what it represents. There are many other Pictish carving of animals which are easily recognisable but the creepy figure of the beast does not correspond to any known creature. I imagined that perhaps the image was a universal sign of warning. Both the known and the unknown within history offer an incredible opportunity to invent, understand and humanise the past and explore the relevance within our lives today. 

I highly recommend a trip to the Highlands to examine the Pictish carvings - whenever I visit that part of the world, inspiration seems to travel with me.

The London Magazine April/May 2016
The London Magazine Editions