Christine De Luca and Wendy Bailey



Book covers have always been important to me. This was reinforced by my time in the early days at Usborne Publishing in the 1970s when at every Frankfurt Book Fair we displayed around 40 or 50 covers on our stand to get feedback from potential customers. A marketing exercise initiated by the late and great Peter Usborne who very unexpectedly died at the end of March. It He was such a pioneer and innovator and had an excellent business brain. I learnt a lot from him.

My interest in fine art is also very longstanding and I studied both art and art history before going to university where I met my partner, a painter, Charlie Johnson, who has provided many covers for the books. See here

At Patrician Press, I have tried to use original art for all our titles so I am very grateful to all the artists who have contributed cover images. 

Our first spotlight is on Christine De Luca’s Northern Alchemy and Wendy Bailey’s ‘Unearthed’ and how the text and artwork came together.

The Shaetlan tongue (Shetlandic) has its roots not only in a Norse language but also in Old Scots (and thus Middle English). This being so, when Patricia Borlenghi of Patrician Press proposed a bi-lingual with English versions, I wondered if the Shaetlan poems would be distinctive enough – different enough – from modern English to make it worthwhile. No such doubt had crossed my mind when similar publications were proposed in French, Icelandic, Norwegian and Italian.  

However, Patricia was keen on the project and soon had me convinced. In her Foreword to the publication, Laureen Johnson (co-editor of The New Shetlander and fellow writer) generously concluded:

 To the young, to the curious, to the newcomer to Shetland speech, to its native speakers, its admirers, detractors, and those who may never have seriously considered it as a medium for poetry – this book is for you all.  Read, understand, enjoy!’

Patricia’s judgement has been borne out, for which I remain both relieved and grateful.

The book contains poems from six of my collections dating from the mid-1990s, as well as a few as yet uncollected poems. They are arranged chronologically. One uncollected poem, Dis life is nivver enyoch, was written when I was recently visiting Iceland. When I was shown Wendy Bailey’s draft cover for the book, I felt it resonated beautifully with the first part of that poem, relating as it did to a pagan burial site exhibited at the Iceland National Museum. I immediately loved her image and the selected colours. One should never underestimate the value of a good cover.

One area Patricia and I discussed at some length was how to show that the real poem was the one in Shaetlan while the English version was largely there to clarify meaning, rather than as a stand-alone poem. I was keen to have the reader first encounter the Shaetlan poem and allow the eye to stray across to the recto page only if the language was proving to be a barrier to understanding. I wanted him/her to ‘let go’ and read phonetically and enjoy the sound. I did not attempt to make the English versions into poems; rather they should be ‘paler versions of the real thing’. I even persuaded Patricia that a lighter font might help with that signalling. I still think this was a good decision.

Sadly, we were not able to launch the book in 2020 or have a series of events due to Covid restrictions but, nevertheless, it has found its way out into the world – thanks to the tireless efforts of Patrician Press.

For more information about my writing (poetry, prose, translations, collaborations and work with children) see:

Christine De Luca, 2023


Unearthed – linocut

Buried or Asleep?

Naked, peacefully lying on one side, knees drawn up in foetal position, one hand cups the face, eyes closed, at rest at last. Asleep or buried?

Preserved human remains have been found in natural peat bogs, mostly in northern and western Europe but also elsewhere.

This body is evocative of several hundred ancient preserved bodies discovered of peat bog men and women, such as Lindow Man, Lindow Woman and Tollund Man to name a few.

Archaeology only slightly lifts the veil on our ancestors, leaving so many questions unanswered. Who is this person, how did they live, how did they die,  is this a burial or 2,000 years ago did s/he just lie down to sleep in a soft mossy peat bog?

This image reflects my inquistive mind, pays respect to our ancient ancestors, and acts as a message of love to  humanity. We will survive. A fitting tribute to the Shetlanders in the poetry of Northern Alchemy by Christine De Luca where so many prehistoric sites exist on the Hebridean island. 

Instagram @wendybaileypr

Wendy Bailey, 2023