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.
Laurna Robertson, Praise Song, reviewed by Lindsay Macgregor
Laurna Robertson’s fourth publication, Praise Song, celebrates Shetland, the place of her birth and childhood, and reflects aspects of her early years there in poetic memoir.
The pamphlet opens with “North”, in which Robertson sets out the experience of leaving home and family to live in unfamiliar and unsettling surroundings, only to return:
your place set at the table, they shrink you
to the earlier maquette they knew
before you fled over the sea.
Robertson does not shrink from these discomfiting associations with her home and its paradoxes. The title poem, “Praise Song” is at one and the same time:
For islands caught in a time-warp of childhood.
For islands that taught how the world would be.
Avoiding sheer sentimentality, she remembers the rain and fog as well as the sunshine of childhood.... There are moments of dark humour too – in “Photocall: Lerwick, 1898” – sits Will, “whose will caused chaos, leaving goods to be shared/ by his surviving brothers’ sons,/or his brothers’ surviving sons.”