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Moontide by Niall Campbell review a poetic symphony in the Outer Hebrides

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Campbell's first collection of poems is full of striking moments illuminated by powerful lyric impulses

Stare long enough at a landscape and it stares back at you. I hadn't expected to find the truth of Nietzsche's observation borne out by the Westford Inn on North Uist, but perusing Louis MacNeice's I Crossed the Minch in that remote spot, I noticed the landlady produce a copy of her own. "An ideal site for a murder story," she declared, repeating MacNeice's verdict on her establishment. Niall Campbell's Moontide too spends a lot of time looking at the watery landscapes of Uist, only to notice that his moonstruck stance is already part of someone else's picture.

"On Eriskay" stages an encounter between the poet and a kelpie "at the fence", otherwise the dividing line between human and non-human realms, but also in a poem that updates Arnold's "The Forsaken Merman" the fence posts between originality and tradition. The kelpie drinks the moon "from a moon-filled trough", monopolising the natural world and placing the poet in the role of trespasser. The singer of "And This Was How It Started" is challenged to sing a thousand songs but, on running out of material, starts to imitate birdsong, moonlight and the stars, melting into the folk tradition.

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