Griffin Poetry Prize winner Karen Solie’s new collection, The Caiplie Caves, interrogates violence, power, economies, self-delusion, and belief in poems that orbit the Caves of Caiplie on the coast of Scotland.
In the seventh century, on the coast of Fife, Scotland, an Irish missionary named Ethernan withdrew to a cave in order to decide whether to establish a priory on May Island, directly opposite, in the Firth of Forth, or pursue a hermit’s solitude. His decision would have been informed by the realities of war, religious colonization, and ideas of progress, power, and corruption, and complicated by personal interest, grief, confusion, and a faith (religious and secular) under extreme duress. His choice between life as an “active” or a “contemplative” was one between public and private action. Along with the question of what constitutes action, it remains a choice central to political and private life.
Karen Solie’s fifth book of poetry, The Caiplie Caves, attends to transition in times of crisis. Around passages informed by Ethernan’s story are poems that orbit the geographical location of the caves but that range through the ages, addressing violence, power, work, economies, self-delusion, and belief. Indecision and necessity are inseparable companions. As are the prospect of error and regret.