The Lost Loon of Inverness Gardens!
A few weeks ago, we featured a poem by Nate Pritts entitled “The Lovely Lass of Inverness.” The poem takes its title—as well as a bit of inspiration and a bit of diction—from the Robert Burns poem of the same name. Here’s more from Nate about his poem, its origins, and its relation to the Burns poem.
The Lost Loon of Inverness Gardens!
I grew up in the suburbs. What that meant when I was a kid was that around me, there were only a very few fully developed neighborhoods and a handful more that were under construction (big bulldozed piles of dirt with just a few houses spaced out according to some unknown plan). But the dominant features of the landscape of my youth were the immense fields and woods that hadn’t yet been tapped for the sprawl of middle class domiciles. If you had tried to draft a map of my world, you’d have seen tiny scattered outposts of civilization and huge swaths of Forbidden Land.
There were some worn bike trails as well as those that were rougher—only for the adventurous. There were forts with fire pits, old lawn chairs and empty beer cans (if you knew where to look, you could find some unopened cans along with well-weathered copies of Playboy). There were craters of runoff that might as well have been lakes.
I could go on. It was idyllic and terrifying all at once. It was the kind of world where every discovery demanded a narrative and we kids demanded that every narrative be more sensational, more spectacular, than the last.
That was a long time ago. That entire world is a neighborhood. Almost. There was one dogged and stubborn and impractical patch of land left.
But maybe a year or so ago, I drove by this last wilderness of my youth to find a big sign proclaiming a new suburban development, Inverness Gardens.
The Robert Burns poem “The Lovely Lass of Inverness” (sometimes called “Lament for Culloden”) is a sad one about a girl blinded to all the pleasures and comforts of life as a result of having to deal with the senseless deaths of her father, her three brothers, and the guy she loved—maybe all on the same day! I didn’t feel as torn up as she did but, in that moment, it was sort of wrenching to see that pointless development had overtaken one last secret place. It certainly did make my heart sair. Writing a poem with an echo of Robert Burns, staunch Romantic who would have written a furious elegy in a purposefully obscure dialect if anyone so much as moved a stone from one field to another, seemed like exactly what was called for to “commemorate / the transmutation of my childhood.”
My poem, “The Lovely Lass of Inverness,” is of, and for, a world where narrative doesn’t make as much sense as it once might have. Or at least a world wherein one of the foundations of narrative—which I believe to be chronological consequence—isn’t respected. Not the bulldozers, not the men in their suits eating money, not even the young families wanting one dream so desperately that they’ll break apart other dreams to get at it.
Mostly, the poem I wrote is what actually happened that day as I was driving by in my car. As the poem makes clear, I was alone—hence the need to write the poem to make what I was thinking exist in the world, hence the fact that I honked my car horn.
Repeatedly. “Like an irate cloud.” Like a damn lost loon.
Nate Pritts is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Sweet Nothing & a new chapbook, No Memorial, from Thrush Press. He is the founder & principal editor of H_NGM_N, an online journal & small press & lives in Syracuse, New York.