Wednesday 12 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. 

Lesley Harrison, Blue Peal, reviewed by Ellie Julings

Blue Pearl is a gift to readers who, like me, are fascinated by wild places. These poems do not, however, offer easy representations of frozen wastes as unexplored purity. They are populated with life and stories waiting patiently for those who are prepared to dig for them.

Lesley Harrison is a Scottish poet whose work has been widely published. Harrison lives on the Angus coast and has travelled extensively in remote regions, and she weaves those experiences into her poetry. Previous collections include One Bird Flying, a pamphlet inspired by travels in China and Mongolia and Ecstatics: A Language of Birds, a collaboration with artist Laura Drever which won the Callum Macdonald award. Blue Pearl shows Harrison to be a meticulous poet, as fascinated by the shape of words as the stories they convey.

Everything about Blue Pearl evokes the North. The language, like the light in northern regions is breathtakingly clear but eerily askew. In ‘Balaena Borealis’, the close attention to small detail obscures as well as illuminates the whole, a quality that runs throughout the collection:

indented, the lips, the abdomen yellowing with age.
Its surfaces are furrowed, the sinews dividing into threads[.]

Many poems in Blue Pearl explain a single concept in evocative new ways. At times they feel almost like riddles of sense or emotion rather than of narrative or logic.