Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Swift, Jock Stein  The A5 jacket is printed on cream card with black letters and images. The title is top centred in a cursive lower case. The author's name is in very small caps centred just below the bottom of the jacket. In the middle there is a square box featuring a design Handsel Press has used on several pamphlets. It shows a black hill curving across the box, with a line of circles interrupting the curve. Each circle is black above and white below. The black hill has one large white circle in it, and the white 'sky' has one black circle in it. The word 'poetry' appears in black cursive script in the sky -- it is smaller than the pamphlet title but still easily legible at a distance, and quite eye catching.

Handsel Press, 2019   £5.00

The quality of psalms

In Swift, Jock Stein evokes the psalm’s emotional quality and passionate praise for nature. The imagery shows his exact attention to his subjects. His poems remind me of prayers of thanksgiving.

The title poem celebrates the swift, ‘the quick black flash / the magic headlong dash / and summer’s kaleidoscope of light’, aware of a higher presence in the circle of life.

‘Resolution’ also praises the natural world in villanelle form, using repetition and organised thought to dramatic effect. In a twist the narrator contrasts joyous beauty with ‘the wickedness of human hands’ in a battle of good and evil, seeking God’s intervention ‘to heal the heartless / hug the Frankensteins’.

‘Bridge Passage’ guides us over the River Esk ‘nature brisk / with her own purpose underneath my gaze’. The narrator is a voyeur in God’s creation, a fly on ‘God’s wall’.    

‘Stained Glass at Preporche’ imagines ‘the movements of four crafted seasons’. Here we meet the biblical Moses, Peter, and John in a run of strong lyrical images and starry nights.

‘Inchcolm’ brings us closer to home. The poet asks us to join, ride, see the sounds, movements and shapes of our island world. The lines end with a nod to the Old Testament books and the word ‘holiness’, the adoration of everything sacred.

Maggie Mackay