Moth Island 1967

I’ve just read Tomas Transtromer’s poem ‘Breathing Space July’. It’s a beautiful, unfathomable poem. And there is one line I particularly like: ‘as the islands crawl like huge moths over the globe.’ Moths the size of islands.

I have a cold so am lying in bed coughing and spluttering. The moths crawl into the poem, huge, ponderous, almost mechanical. And they clatter over the surface of the globe, but they are islands.

When we lived on the island of Moth, back in the nineteen sixties, we used to think it had the most wonderful climate. It was only later we discovered the island was a huge mechanical moth operated by the poet Tomas Transtromer. He had several of them crawling across the globe. If he liked you he’d position your island so it enjoyed the sun and a breeze, maybe even a shower at night to keep the land fresh, and your coffee pot topped up.

If he didn’t like you, I imagine he situated your island in the Antarctic, or the Atacama Desert. I don’t know, I’m guessing.

We used to listen to the music of the islanders, they sang sitting up on the huge antennae, as if these were limbs of a tree, and sing their gentle songs, strumming instruments that looked like tiny harps, occasionally looking out to sea or closing their eyes to express some particular emotion.


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