Monday 17 February 2020

For 2020, the StAnza Blog is hosting DURA – the Dundee University Review of the Arts – who as reviewers in virtual residence on the StAnza Blog will post excerpts from their selection of reviews of titles by poets on the StAnza 2020 programme, including this one in today’s blog. The full review can be read on their website at  https://dura-dundee.org.uk/category/poets-stanza-2019-reviews/. Written by staff and students, DURA is keen to promote the diversity of artists and art forms in the UK context, supporting especially (albeit non-exclusively) independent cinema outlets, exhibitions, theatre, film and publishing. 

Alec Finlay & Ken Cockburn, The Road North, reviewed by Amy Galloway

Some of the shorter poems in the collection are surprisingly self-aware and carry a different tone. Reflections on the sea’s power and the scale of the beach are succinctly described in three lines, which are vigorous and offer food for thought. Despite their brevity, they hold considerably more weight than so many of their longer counterparts. Arguably, this is partly because of their question and response format, a notable device utilised by both poets. But even here, for some, the poetry could be lost amidst the mouthfuls of dialect-heavy and Gaelic place names.  Others will of course see these names as poetry in themselves. So perhaps they consider the potency and imagistic simplicity of:

     what is a beach?
     a beach is an abacus
     which counts in lines
     powered by the moon[.]


In comparison with:

[…] is our Jura, Scarba, Lunga, Fiola Mheadhonach, Rubha Fiola, Eilean Dubh Mor […]

There are two poems here which experiment with, and divert from, the more expected structures, presenting in an almost Edwin Morgan-esque visual or concrete style: one poem is typeset as a ring, the other centred on the page with lines formed of no more than three words. These disjointed poems connect more (both thematically and stylistically) to their surroundings than some other pieces in the collection and demonstrate significant ingenuity.  I would have enjoyed more in this vein.