The Island in the Sound, the third collection by South Uist poet Niall Campbell, creates an archipelago of memories, lyrics, observations and folktales that place the small islands of his birthplace into conversation with moments from literature and history.
The Sound of the title has a double meaning, both a thing that might be heard but also a body of water between islands or mainland, from the Norse word Sund. These poems rise up, then, as moments of clarity lifted out of all the noise and music and speech-patterns of our present world.
Here, mirroring the islands’ precarious future, we uncover strange links to Rome falling, Lindisfarne, and the temporary heaven found in Alamut, North Iran. The waters that churn around the islands in the poems bring strange things to their shores: saints, remnants of various types of havens, crab-boxes, and figures from the working-class lives of Uist.
It is a poetry collection attuned to the growing sense that something is changing around us and there never will be a going back. These islands in the sound are what’s left: shaped, crafted, riven by the strange tuneful sea they sprang from.
Niall Campbell’s first collection, Moontide (2014), won both the £20,000 Edwin Morgan Poetry Award and the Saltire First Book of the Year Award as well as being shortlisted for three other major prizes. His second collection, Noctuary (2019), was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection. Born and raised on South Uist in the Outer Hebrides, he now lives in Fife.
Praise for Noctuary:
‘Following on from the inky darkness of Niall Campbell’s first collection Moontide (2014), set by the shores of the Outer Hebrides, Noctuary is a homage to night-time, to "that midnight thrill of being alive", to the small, stray moments that make up a life. It is also a passionately tender examination of what it means to have and care for a small child.’ – Suzannah V. Evans, Times Literary Supplement
‘A noctuary is a night journal and many of the poems here feel as if they have been written in the strange, dreamlike state between sleeping and waking… Campbell's [poems] are careful, crafted, lyrical.’ – Roger Cox, Scotland on Sunday
‘Many of Campbell’s fine poems are ruminations on the difficulties and rewards of new fatherhood. And, to shamelessly plunder a much-overused critical conceit, they are irresistibly luminous, which is to say that they give off a steady light in introspection. A city-dweller originally from the remote Hebridean island of South Uist, Campbell perceives relationships through the kaleidoscopic glass of landscapes current and remembered...In truth, there is so much of enduring value in Noctuary that the reader struggles to climb out of the amniotic water.’ – Steve Whitaker, The Yorkshire Times
Praise for Moontide:
'Niall Campbell to me reveals a rare poetic sensibility, and joyous wordsmith...allied to a singular sensitivity to mood and atmosphere. His muscular phrasing and seductive cadences give his poems a burnished quality; while his perceptions of the natural world here predominantly the land and seascape of Uist - and that of myth...interwoven with insight into his workings as a poet...instil a recurring sense of wonder.' – Stewart Conn, Edwin Morgan Poetry Award Judge
'In his understated debut collection, Campbell, who spent his childhood on South Uist in the Outer Hebrides, draws on an intimately known landscape as witness to solitude and shared lives' – Maria Crawford, Financial Times, Summer Books 2014
'With precise language, musicality and insight, Campbell’s first collection explores solitude, companionship and memory against a backdrop of closely observed nature. His intimate poems draw on the seascapes and myths of his native Eriskay, in the Outer Hebrides, but take the same sharp-focused eye to other places, too... Meditative and haunting – my favourite poetry book of 2014 so far.' – Juanita Coulson, The Lady
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