NEW HOPE INTERNATIONAL REVIEW

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JAMES SINCLAIR: GULF STREAM BLUES
North Idea

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JAMES SINCLAIR: GULF STREAM BLUES

As the blurb on the back of James Sinclair's collection GULF STREAM BLUES tells us,

James Sinclair was born in Lerwick in 1963 and attended the Anderson High School. He worked in the ship-repair and boat building industry as a welder-plater for 25 years.
It's important to know these facts as some of Sinclair's poems are written in dialect and many of his themes are about the sea and the Shetlands.

In the opening poem DA WADDER EYE, the persona states

	Dey say at a'm a prophet
	dey dunna ken whit der spikkin aboot.
	Fur forty year my een hae glowered apo da sky
	bit fur aw my perseverance, dir is nae answer.
TIES is written in English. This poem describes the persona as "a family man" familiar with storms, floods and tempests, but his wish is for "the peace of knowing a rural cottage."

The poem WANDERINGS contains descriptions of five people: Sailor, Daughter, Scholar, Creel Man and Crofter. Creel Man presents a wonderful description of a man who emigrated to Australia from his homeland, but cannot forget his heritage:

	Wilbert, youngest brother from the Herra
	a dab hand at catching crabs in Walfirth  
	wandered wayward across seven seas
	to South Australia and her rocky shores
	hauling baskets of crayfish from Batemans Bay
	he spent the rest of his days writing home.
INFATUATION is a tender love poem, quite unlike the other poems in this collection. It recounts the way in which the persona perceives his loved one:
	There you were
	stock-still as a statue
	on Easter Island,
	winter's wind tugging
	at your heavy coat
	cascades of hair flying
	in freshening breeze,
	salt crust crystallizing
	on tender lips.
While THE BAKER'S DELIGHT reveals the delights of the bakery and the opulence of the baker's wares as he sets about his business:
	Sensuous hands caress
	small tight buns lightly powdered
	fingers fall between the crease to ease apart.
	The fire in my head has reached baking point
	as I feel the dough rising.
SKIPPER'S LOG 1969 is a very unusually poem as it recollects in log form a week in the life of a fishing vessel. The following excerpt is from Saturday, September 17th:
	Prices poor, too much fish on the market,
	took on ice, fuel and stores.
	Left Lerwick at noon, sunny day, westerly breeze
	good forecast for next week, light southerlies.
	Steamed north all day, arrived home at 2200hrs
	sail again, midnight Sunday.
KLAUDIA is a dialect poem describing the delights of a female visitor:
	An fur sikkin a bonny hied o hair
	da colour o corn ida simmertime
	an whin da twalloos leme wis set by,
	we aksed whit hed brought her aw dis wey.
ISLAND is one of my favourite poems in the collection, with its 6 3-line stanzas depicting Foula as a
	cloud-blackened stump
with
	shit-flies and maggots feasting
	over bleached bones.
But in the final two stanzas we see there is another presence in the poem:
	Teasing fingers slipping into my hand
	I feel your warmth course through me
	while at that moment sun breaks out of cloud-shackles

	to sprinkle glitter on the water.
	We watch Foula recede into the distance
	recede into nowhere.
In the SENTRY we see the watchman scanning the shore through his glass where he spies "quiet Mary" dancing "with her stranger from the sea." The poem's haunting verses end quietly with the watcher laying down his glass after he has seen the girl
	clambering, stumbling, falling
	upon the faithless rocks of Silvery Geo
	heavy with child and searching for stolen, selkie treasure.
AT NINE YEARS OLD is a poem written for the poet's grandmother, Bertha Spence. It takes us back in time to the poet's recollection of winding the clock
	I would climb up on to that wooden stool

	insert my steel key into the ornamental face
	make three full turns, no more, no less.
The final poem, NOAH, written in couplets with one final line, tells of the poet searching "through inky blackness" where he sees "a light, bold at universe's end."

It's an enigmatic finale to the collection.

In such poems the precision of Sinclair's writing is a recurrent delight. Sinclair's real but unaffected love for his dialect and heritage is registered in language which, very naturally, makes of such admiration evidence of self-consciousness and self-discovery. There is an occasionally breath-taking responsiveness to simple beauty in Sinclair's work, just as there is the unflinching awareness of the hardships undergone by fishermen and sailors. Sinclair avoids any excesses in either "facts" or his response to them; certainly he refuses to see them as anything but a way of life lived in extreme conditions. In short, this is a fine collection from a poet unafraid to put his experiences, dialect and emotions to good use.

reviewer: Patricia Prime.