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Lay for the Day
17th June

The National Day of Iceland, the anniversary of the republic's declaration of full independence from Denmark in 1944.
The poem was inspired by the late ’Asta Kristinsdottir Wathen (3.7.1940–12.10.2000) and her felt art. See a selection of her portraits in this gallery.

Cecily Sheridan by ’Asta Wathen (photo by Sunna Wathen)


She makes a mat
of fibres, layers-
thick, pressed, depict
a face she cares

to know. To show
a friend, her built-
up filmy webs
waver and tilt

out of true when
wetted, flattened,
to likeness more
true in the end,

allowing lines
life’s variance.
She wants “Central

as she puts it,
to portray, some
Ur-people whose
faces ripple

and merge, emerge,
wink and perish
from these fond French,
Germans, Irish.

She jokes but seeks
to do good works
in this technique
learned from the Turks.

Her Icelandic
face at fifty
keeps growing its
changing beauty.


John Gibbens
from Characters: You & I

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar