Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

poem-Brittany December 27, 2015

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 2:00 am
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So small,

but her voice rings out,

bell-like and true

She holds tightly to the tune.

Iridescent cherry curves of caramel.

Beauty under pressure,

vibrating on my lap

music therapy for what ails me.



A little metaphor.  Here’s the Brittany in question:

Literally true- she keep her tuning amazingly well- I didn’t play for a month and every note was still right!  Unheard of in a harp, really.  Also, the strings are under nearly a ton of pressure, the soundboard bellies out quite dramatically. (They say a harp sounds at its most beautiful just before it explodes…)  My Brittany is cherry wood in the sound box, pillar and harmonic curve, but Baltic birch on the sound board.  She’s a very beautiful little harp.


poem- 3 powers October 19, 2014

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:30 am
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Three powers

of the ancient bards:

to rouse the listener to joyful laughter,

to desolate the listener to sorrowful tears,

to comfort the listener to peaceful sleep.

Three powers

of the harper.

Three powers

of the wordsmith.

Three powers

I seek.




harp tune-Suo Gan June 24, 2014

Here is Suo Gân, a Welsh lullaby, arranged by me and dedicated to David Prosser of the Barsetshire Diaries.



My paternal great-grandmother was Margaret Owen, born in Holyhead, Wales. She was married to Thomas Mosses of London, England.  About the only time the two appear to have been together is on their marriage certificate.  According to many years of census data, Margaret was alone from the time of the marriage onward.  My grandfather was David Owen Mosses.  I wonder if single mother Margaret ever sang this lullaby to young David?


(And if you happen to be a Mosses from Liverpool or London, I’d love to hear from you).


harp tune- Skye Boat Song June 17, 2014

Filed under: Harp,OUTLANDERishness — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:09 pm
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New and improved version of my arrangement of The Skye Boat Song for the double strung Brittany harp.  That’s a Scottish clarsach style small harp you see behind me in the thumb nail.  I even speak and show you the harp! 😉



and here are my lyrics referencing Outlander.  At some point I’ll record myself singing this, but G isn’t my singing key, so it’s a bit of a stretch!





poem- quiet June 8, 2014

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:11 am
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The house rests.

Five bodies drift on dreams.

One sits, enshrined in song,

strums softly

on strings:

a living lullaby.


poem- songful day June 1, 2014

Filed under: Harp,Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 10:49 am
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The strings of the harp sing

and the back deck resonates

with the soundboard

as spring and summer harmonize

and time drifts lazily

on my melody.


music-Skye Boat Song on harp May 29, 2014

Here’s a little break from ranting poems or pugilistic poetry!  In honour of the upcoming Outlander TV show, here’s an ‘arrangement in progress’ I’ve made of The Skye Boat Song, which I’m betting is incorporated into the TV show theme.



For the technically curious:

I am playing a double strung harp.  (This was definitely easier before I had bifocals, though it was challenging enough then).  There are three octaves on each side of the harp, tuned to the same notes.  44 strings in all.  This is a low-head Celtic harp, in the style of the famous Irish Brian Boru harp or the Scottish  Queen Mary harp.  It is also known as a Scottish clarsach.  Specifically, mine is a Brittany harp, built for me by Stoney End 15 years ago or so. (When I bought it the Canadian dollar was around 70c US, so it was pricey!)  It still has its original strings!  This says it’s a tough little harp, and that I’m a lazy harpist (some people change strings a couple of times a year, to keep the sound bright).  It is made from a lovely, shimmery grained cherry and has a Baltic birch soundboard with a pretty inlay strip at the base of the strings.  It keeps its tuning brilliantly- rarely needing more than a titch of adjustment here and there.  This is a rare blessing in a harp!

Here are The Skye Boat Song lyrics as I say them to myself while I’m playing (which does not in any way imply they are the correct lyrics!)

Speed bonny boat like a bird on the wing

Onward the sailors cry

Carry the lad that’s born to be king

Over the sea to Skye!

Loud the winds blow

Loud the waves crash

Ocean’s a weary bed

La la la la

la la la la                           (< < < < pretty sure those aren’t the right lyrics)

Watch o’er your weary head

oh                                        (That’s the soft D sounded to start back into the chorus)

Speed bonny boat… (etc)

I always thought somehow Flora McDonald was on this boat with him, but I think that’s just me.


I promise OJ the standard poodle is only sleeping, though he certainly does look dead.  He is snoring now, in the exact same position.



harping romance April 15, 2013

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:41 am
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The strings and the fingers

are smiling tentatively at each other,

recalling long ago acquaintance

but feeling shy with each other.

Once, fingers danced with strings

for hours, without a glance to

the books of lines and staffs that

were their matchmaker.

Then they were separated

and the comfortable rhythm

they once shared

slowly dissolved

into awkward tentativeness

on the rare occasions

when they came across one another.

Relationships take commitment,

after all.

Now they’ve been reintroduced.

The matchmaker pushes them together

and fingers hesitantly

caress the strings,

leave them vibrating,

longing for more.


harps 2002

It’s been far too long, but I’m finally back playing the harp.  So far I’m working on a great book, Rose in Winter, by harpist Sharon Thormahlen of Corvallis, Oregon.  Her original pieces are so pretty and fall easily on the fingers.  In this photo (circa 2002) is my Bresch Jubal harp (33 strings) behind and my double strung Brittany from Stoney End in front. (The Brittany is cherry, and has the most beautiful, shimmering grain and a tremendously loud voice for a wee harp!)


dog music March 31, 2013

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:35 pm
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The dog barks

The harp sings.

Strumming dog.

Barking harp.



It’s a poem, but it’s also true.  When the dog woofs, the sound waves he generates reverberate through the soundboard of the harp and cause the strings to vibrate.   The barking yields a clearly audible hum.

Do your pets play your instruments?


still winter January 19, 2013

Filed under: Pondering — Shawn L. Bird @ 1:33 pm
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Of course it is.  After all, the calendar says mid-January, so what can you expect?  Here is the view from my kitchen window:




And here’s the view from the living room window:




Yup.  Definitely still winter.

It’s a beautiful time, full of stillness and rest.  Unless you’re out on your skis or snowshoes, it’s a good time to be inside sipping cocoa, reading a good book in front of the fire, while you listen to some beautiful music.

Which reminds me of a beautiful harp piece by Sharlene Wallace on her album Journey of Shadows.  Listen to “Winter Still.”  Sharlene was my harp teacher in the 90’s, when I would go study at Island Mountain Arts International harp School.  These days my poor harps are sadly neglected, but I still love Sharlene!  After you’ve heard “Winter Still,” while you’re on that CBC site, listen to some of her other pieces!  “Winter Frieze” is another of my favourites.


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