Sheri Benning’s Field Requiem is crosshatched with both Biblical and grid references. In the terrifying enormity of the Canadian prairies, which this collection both hymns and mourns, the reader may manage to avoid locating the exact locations (and some may, in any case be fictionalised, wisely), but the layer of the religious aspects cannot be skimmed. The New Testament reference above takes the reader to The Parable of the Minas, which is perhaps less self-evident in its truths than some others.
There’s an old adage that our pupils teach us far more than they are taught. The former teacher in me doesn’t quarrel with that, and nor, apparently, does Hannah Lowe. Drawn from her own ten years’ teaching in ‘an inner-city London sixth form’, the book erupts with classroom vibrancy, without confining itself to in-school tales.
Ezra Pound suggested that poets ‘go in fear of abstractions’, and his advice continues to hold much weight. Like any principle of course, not only will excellent exceptions keep occurring, but it deserves to be held to account. Pound would have expected no less. In her second full collection Tripping Over Clouds, Lucy Burnett does exactly that, and ‘underpinning this is a re-imagining of abstraction as a prior state of possibility and potential from which the world and ourselves are constantly re-emerging – as abstraction to, not from.’
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?
If there could ever be the right – the only – title for this poetry collection, then Lamping for Pickled Fish might be it, setting the reader up as it so neatly does for the illicit, for the hidden and obscure and for journeys into unexpected spaces. … McDonough is a forager, avid in pursuit of the wild jewels of shoreline and hedgerow in her native north-east Scotland and a maker. A maker of jam, from Ronnie’s stolen rhubarb; of soused herring in the title poem; of a young adult from a toddler; and, effortlessly, of words from other words.
The M Pages opens with ‘Death of an Actress’, a poem layered with literary references, and heavy with a clever litany of clichés, both witty and poignant. That wit is intrinsic to these poems. Throughout tragic, shocking and sombre passages, Bryce’s fun with wordplay, and her tumbling rhyme never diminish, akin to the irreverent gallows humour which needfully so often accompanies mourning.
‘Tell all the truth but tell it slant’ If Emily Dickinson’s much-quoted line is a poets’ mantra, not for the first time reviewing, I have to ask – surely its application is wider? When Picasso unleashed Guernica‘s terrible pain and fury, how could he tell that trauma, other than slant? A creative act, burning the Read More
cos cheum nach gabh tilleadh For some, Robin Robertson’s book-length narrative poem is “unclassifiable”. Shortlisted for awards invariably dominated by prose, it is epic in both scale and ambition. Resisting the strict fit of epic form, its protagonist (the aptly-named Walker) is overly human for deification; its netherworld trips, earthly hells. Remembered paradises are also Read More
Find as far inland as Kintyre can allow, map back to an almost-anywhere dot. Out of seasight. Still, on clouded nights, watch Rathlin’s lit pattern censer past. A little industrial structure. One bog-footed cave built for burning. All rabbit shit, trotting-in lost sheep, broken curves open to host brackening rain. A dripped-on Alice, shrunk on Read More
Of rain and rushing water, dense with coils of razor wire masquerading as weeds. The fish were machine guns with fins and barrels that ruddered through the swift current like mermaids’ tails, so you could not tell who they were really pointed at, and who would die when they were fired. Perhaps the quotation above Read More