Friday 31 January 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. 

Brian Johnstone, Juke Box Jeopardy, reviewed by Kai Durkin

As the title and sleeve suggest, this is a collection about music. With infectious enthusiasm, Johnstone takes us on a journey through the history of his evolving relationship with music, from the boy who loved Tchaikovsky and had never heard of The Beatles, to the would-be musician experiencing a revelation at a The Incredible Swing Band concert. Throughout, he exhibits an almost obsessive knowledge of the music and artists he is discussing, dropping constant references to singles, albums and events in the artists’ lives, as in his tribute to Marianne Faithfull, ‘Faithfull’:

watching those tears you sang of go by,

as blue as the label that spun round
your name. How could this boy resist…

…this little bird singing on in my head
her appeal that I stay, keep the faith?

These references are carried with an air of playfulness... Overall, Juke Box Jeopardy is an exuberant celebration of music for serious and casual fans alike. It invites the reader to not only reflect fondly on the past but also to look to the future with optimism.

(An interview conducted in 2016 with Brian Johnstone is also available on DURA.)