Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

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Language and Landscape

An Offering explores the blurry edges between language and landscape in the context of the poet’s native country, Scotland. As a reader, I found myself vanishing into its rural spaces, subsumed into the poet’s own haar of unusual diction and imagery. 

Scots words and place names, such as ‘machair’ and Torridon’, are blended with English, locating us in a space that is in between worlds, and which juxtaposes present and past. This scrambling of diction also parallels the natural evolution of language as something which is constantly picking up different strains, migrating here and there, transforming.

There’s a freshness which comes from Sanderson’s blend of these archaic and sometimes esoteric Scots words, rather like breathing in ‘a fug of wet leaves’. Bleak and sensual landscapes become almost tangible. The poet’s appreciation of the richness of the natural world is evident with every poem, and his delight in finding meaning through the visible is infectious. 

Natural details seep through this pamphlet: 

Like lichen-covered teeth, these rings of stone
which mulishly refuse to disappear
into the machair and the moss

These details are pitted against human feeling. This is most evident in one of the gems in the pamphlet ‘The Edge of Things. It is perhaps in this poem most of all that the blurry intersection between language and landscape, and the boundaries between Scots and English, are apparent. In contrast to our world of political tribalism, the poet promises that he will ‘stand’ right here — ‘on the edge of things’. We might conclude that the most radical position is always the objective stance — trying to understand both sides.

Sanderson finds this objective edge or boundary the between-space — throughout the work, and with a lightness of touch: unhurried and unforced. This is poetry to savour and take time over.

Nell Prince