Swift, Jock Stein
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.