Wovember Words: Shetland Ewe

Stella Sutherland is a writer from Bressay, Shetland. She has written four collections of poetry, contributed to a number of anthologies and written articles. I have always enjoyed Stella’s poetry which connects to animals and the landscape – a landscape very recognisable to me, as a Bressa’ lass myself.
I was reading through one of her books recently and came across this lovely poem. For today’s WOVEMBER words we can look no further for 100% appreciation of our fleecy friends.

: : Shetland Ewe : :
Her occasional only crime
creeping or jumping fences:
her sentence the necklace,
hard triangle of sticks.

Mostly she minds
her own business,
diligent nibbler, fertiliser.
accepting whatever mate
her crofter wishes upon her;
loving mother, defender
of her lambs from
dog, skua, blackback, raven,
stamping her feet, advancing
with no weapons but
her hard head, courage, desperation.

Often defeated, eyeless,
torn, hounded, worried, bloody,
she presses on regardless.

What does she get but the hill.
heather, bog, sedge.
when big ewes get the barley?
Pampering’s not for her
her crofter is a meriful man.

Her blood, bones, if she dies,
nourish hills, wild creatures.
If she lives her bringing forth
nourishes folk,
flesh feeds, wool warms.

She never thinks about it.

I would like to record what we owe her.

Stella Sutherland
From A Celebration and Other Poems [1991]


Kate Ali’s photograph, entered into the WOVEMBER Photo Contest 2011, is a lovely image of wool in the Shetland landscape to accompany Stella’s poem.
Thank you to Stella Sutherland for the kind permission to use her poem.
If you would like to hear more of Stella’s poetry you can follow this link,to the Shetland Library, to hear her reciting some of her own work.