Perjink Press, 2006 - £5.00
It is often said of a writer that they are ‘painterly.’ Dorothy Lawrenson proves she deserves that epithet more than most, and not just because of her choice of words; Under The Threshold also includes her own photographs and sketches. The inclusion of illustrations gives this collection a feeling of being bigger and more substantial than just 11 poems. And makes me wonder why more pamphlets aren’t illustrated? We have the technology.
I often read poems inspired by paintings and long to see the painting. Lawrenson fulfils my wishes: her opening poem, ‘Première’, compares a contemporary photograph of Jane Birkin on the red carpet with a Gauguin painting strikingly similar in colour and composition. Yes, colour. These pictures are reproduced in full colour on the front and back covers of the collection.
Although the chap-book includes a brush and ink self-portrait of Lawrenson aged 23, we are given no further biographical details. But the poems themselves provide soft ground for a bit of Miss Marple digging. For example, it isn’t hard to spot the Scots location. The collection is self-published in Edinburgh, and Edinburgh landmarks abound. Indeed Lawrenson tells us she has, “tasted of the tree of the knowledge of Glasgow and Edinburgh.” The centrefold performance poem is about Edinburgh writers, and ‘Peggy’ gives us a glimpse into the bygone world of Dundee weavers.
We also know she’s an artist: from the illustrations, from the imagery (the Pennines are “galera grey” and “the wind a chisel”) and from her own description of herself as a child, “Crouched behind the sofa, with pencil and ruled pad”, and as an adult whose “Memory distils to line and wash,/ and each essential tremor’s magnified / by years and a fine brush.”
My deduction— Lawrenson is an artist who is most writerly.
Pamphlet available from author at Perjink Press, 8a Leopold Place, Edinburgh EH7 5AW or from www.scottish-pamphlet-poetry.com