Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Blinkbonny, 2006 - £2

The dedication said it all:

 

For those shortly to become

sexagenarians

(they'll know who I mean)

 

Ah, I thought, not me then. A little investigation uncovered the identity of this Jimmy Shand—a Scottish singer/songwriter with a passion for motorcycles. Should I have known? I wasn’t sure. Appropriately enough, though, for your rough’n’ready motorcyclist, the pamphlet has two skewed, misaligned, photocopied photographs and—in one poem—the author’s own handwriting—there’s the sense of a crazy ride, uncertain scenery flashing past.

    The poems are nostalgic, many of them in Scots, moving forward in time from 1908 when Shand “first saw the licht o day/ in East Wemyss” through various key dates and bike-linked celebrities (Steve McQueen, Barry Sheene, Sir Ralph Richardson), creating an elegiac air. One poem, ‘The Timeless Jimmy Shand’, features Shand himself in the centre of the page with names of songs streaming outwards, all unfamiliar to me—perhaps, my loss—and surprisingly moving.

    I couldn’t help being troubled, however, by the way musical or nostalgic references were oddly juxtaposed with a couthy sense of the ridiculous. In one poem, for example, Shand is described as casting doubt on the Beatles’ ability to keep tempo. And another, ‘Death in the South’, ends with:

 

A man at odds with his soul,

Riven without prospect of healing,

And then killed on his

Brough Superior, a sad denouement

It must be said, our preference for the

Acrostic hero

 

And of course, reading down the whole poem, we see Lawrence of Arabia spelled out in acrostic. These climaxes were too like punch-lines for my liking. Was I being encouraged to laugh at these men? The more I read the pamphlet, the more I found myself dwelling uncomfortably on the first syllable of ‘sexagenarian’ and couldn’t ignore the uncomfortable sense of elegy intertwined with mockery.

    Unless, of course, such confusion as I’m describing was the point. Maybe, vicenarian as I am, I need to grow older and wiser.

Chris Beaton

  

The Common Reader (a decade or so short of qualififying as a sexagenarian) says of THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES::

A motorbike is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Jimmy Shand so I was interested to read on and discover the connection. Sutherland, like Shand, is obviously very keen on motorbikes and this little pamphlet reflects his considerable knowledge and fondness for them. ‘The Timeless Jimmy Shand’ is not structured in lines of verse but reads like a tribute to the great man. Jimmy takes pride of place in the centre of the page with his button-box, and the titles of the tunes are written, mostly by hand, around the picture. I thought it was an enjoyable and nostalgic read. I suspect though, that Jimmy’s fans will either love it or hate it l

  

Copies available from the author at: 3 Lonsdale Terrace, Edinburgh, EH3 9HN. Price includes postage.