Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Glisk, Sarah StewartThe cover is plain and light grey. A puff quote in italics is featured, right-justified in the top right hand corner. Everything else is at the bottom, and also right justified. The book title is in huge black caps filling the whole width of the jacket and at the very bottom. Above this the name of the author, black lower case, a little above. Above her name is a black graphic of a cloud with a sun half hidden behind it, the rays drawn in little black lines. The text at the top and the text at the bottom effectively make visual triangles because of their size and jistification, widest at the edge of the jacket and narrowing towards the middle. Simple but visually effective.

Tapsalteerie, 2018        £4.00

The lure of place

Glisk’ is such an eye-catching word! Chambers defines it as ‘a glimpse’ (Scot). Robert Macfarlane once made it his word of the day on Twitter. One of the definitions he gives is of ‘a gleam of sunlight through cloud’, which reflects in the small image on the cover of this pamphlet, but ‘a glimpse’ also fits because of the glimpses we get here of different places.

‘Backwards’ caught my eye because of the tribute ‘after W.S. Graham’. I’m always drawn to poems of place, and Graham’s ‘Loch Thom’ is one of my favourites. I’m also interested in the intertextuality of texts and so doubly-drawn to ‘Backwards’, which echoes ‘Loch Thom’ in a walking backward kind of way. The poet’s sensory use of different remembered surfaces takes the reader along with her and the avoidance of commas is perfect:

                       […] my feet
hit concrete grass tarmac parquet
scree the rough green carpet.

The naming of ‘Mintlaw’ sets the place, repetition emphasises, and the sense of taste in the memory of gravel is inspired:

                           […] I knew
the ground I’d played on. I knew
the taste of the gravel. I loved it
all over again.

This is rather lovely and leads neatly on to a strong presence in another place (maybe an actual presence) in ‘The House Where My Mother Was Born’ — this time standing in ‘rubble’ in ‘the skeleton of a but’n’ben’ where ‘with each visit there is less to see’.

Earlier in Glisk, an orphan lamb survives (for now) on ‘that peat-scarred spit of land’ with ‘the pitch-dark blanket / of bog and turf’ (‘Caddy Lamb’), both of which images give a sense of place. ‘Caddy’ and ‘skua’ appear to narrow that place down to Shetland or Orkney.

‘Knapping’, glossed ‘knapp (verb — to speak English, as opposed to the Shetland dialect)’, brings a smile by highlighting the ordinariness of the English equivalents:

where com dee wis
becomes ‘do come in’
and fulskit is ‘lively’.

Com dee wis’ has a lovely sing-song sound and the poet pinpoints Mid Yell as the place it sets off from.

Enid Lee