An independent small press poetry review

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Makar Press
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ISBN 0 9547084 0 7

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This page last updated: 31st August 2010.

A first poetry collection, but rightly not rushed into; it follows several placings of poems in England, Scotland and Hong Kong. These are mainly poems of place, in Scotland, some in English, but many are in Scots with useful footnotes of definitions of Scots words and phrases for the language-deficient Sassenach. (The pronunciations were mainly obvious, dialectical or phonetical guidance seemed unnecessary.)

Overall it is an attractive ramble of place and personal incident, laced with references to the life and features of nature. The poetry is far from vague reference, however, and is quite sharp. In the course of reading one learns a lot about the country. THE GREY MARE'S TAIL is a long waterfall fed and spouting in times of snow and rain. Above it

	nestling in a horseshoe of hills,
	the haematite of Loch Skeen gleams greyly;
	caught in the clasp of pewter rocks
	are broken branches,
	their coral still draped
	with shrouds of ice.
RING OF BRODGAR is a neolithic circle of standing stones at Stenness in Orkney, and is the photo feature on the cover of the collection. [Viking runes were found in the prehistoric chambered mound of Maeshowe, also in the area].
	On that summer day,
	it was easy
	to hear echoes of Skara Brae's storm
	in the whispering tide,
	feel Viking fingers in Maeshowe's runes,
	but the Ring . . .
	the Ring stood like a palisade,
	its crooked teeth biting at fierce blue sky,
	gritting them at colours' sharpness
	as it trapped me, obstinately,in the present.
	Then, closing my eyes,
	I touched a megalith.
	It was cracked by more than four
	millennia of frosts,
	bearded with lichen,
	but as a lark sang sagas
	like bards of old
	I could feel rough hands
	on the June-warmed stone
	reaching along time's ley line
	to join with mine.
KILLIECRANKIE, the 1689 Jacobite battle affray leading to the victory of 'Bonnie Dundee' might have been expected to have a Scots rendering; instead over three centuries later, Love transmutes it to a seasonal event in English:
	Looting rain steals colour
	from the fallen,
	leaving only traces of gun-metal grey
	and the dark lustreless brown
	of old gore.
	But in a hollow,
	the ghostly fingerprint
	of a spider's web drowned in dew
	gives shimmering evidence
	that the woodland lives on.
	Reinforcements will arrive
	with Spring in their step.
By a short head my favourite was NATURE'S HABERDASHERY, ending
	Among appliquéd daisies,
	buttercups stud meadows with gilt;
	hills cross-stitch the horizon.
	And eyeing nature's display,
	I'm hooked.
I am 'nae guid' for any technical comment on the Scots poems, but they can be read with fascination with the aid of the footnotes, and hopefully most readers will also be 'hooked' on this pleasant, versatile collection.

reviewer: Eric Ratcliffe.