Brian Johnstone is far too well-known a figure in the Scottish poetry scene to require any potted biography here. That said, which Brian Johnstone will you meet in The Marks on the Map, his most recent collection?
There is a warmth that emanates from the pages of Sheila Templeton’s eclectic collection of remembering, intimate reminiscences that span a lifetime, taking in a whole generation of perspectives. Clyack is a passage through life that can be enjoyed from cover to cover or, like the recollections explored and shared, as memories that surface in the mind, singular and unexpected though inextricably linked.
In her poem ‘hand-me-downs’, placed boldly near the very beginning of her debut collection Collective Amnesia, South African poet Koleka Putuma writes: ‘I have learnt how to say my glass is half full even when it’s broken’. This collection as a cohesive entity offers no such pretence or platitude. Beautiful, thought-provoking, and scorching in its honesty, Collective Amnesia is a cathartic pouring-forth of words left unsaid for far too long.
To consider Clive Birnie as a poet or an artist might be unnecessarily limiting. Both his artistic and written talent are on show in Palimpsest, the eighth of an experimental sequence of writing, whose vibrant aesthetics are indicative of his sincere love for visual art forms.
Valzyna Mort’s third collection ‘Music for the Dead and Resurrected’ was published in November 2020 amidst ongoing protests in her native Belarus regarding the fraudulent election of Alexander Lukashenko in August of that year. The majority of these poems take place in and around Minsk, the ‘city of iron and irony’ where Mort was born.
The collection opens with two long poems; ‘Spolia’ and ‘War of the Beasts and the Animals’. Similar in form, they are both chaotic and deeply layered. In both poems, Stepanova sifts through language, culture and identity in an attempt to make sense of them all. She reaches no conclusions, but something fascinating is revealed in the attempt. In her poetry, Russia is a country torn apart and remade line by line, a patchwork of truth, myth and dogma stitched together with shreds of memory.
Jericho Brown’s The Tradition is a sharp shock of a book. Daring and lyrical, this collection examines issues of identity, race and sexuality, all set in the backdrop of modern American society. Brown’s defiant ‘I’ provides an anchor for this collection, grounding it with a deep sense of intimacy.
While A Map Towards Fluency might be Kelly’s first poetry collection, it shows an impressive imagination and originality. The poet is both partly deaf and partly Danish, though entirely unable to understand her mother’s native tongue, and she has incorporated both of these aspects of her life into her poetry, which focuses on the power of words and the idea of fluency.
There are poems in this collection that knocked me clean to the ground… The subject is crucial, but it’s the beauty of the poems which hold it all together….so what makes Lyall’s title special? There is her ability to bring such a dazzling array of raw emotion to the page without a hint of over-sentimentality. But there is also her profound ear for lyric and language.
… single everyday moments are the focal point in Gen, and it can be argued that they are also the focal point of life. Life is, after all, nothing but a series of moments – a kiss, a bike ride, a proposal, and Gen is, at its core, a heart-warming and tongue-twisting attempt to capture these moments.