This lovely book was launched at the Callander Poetry Weekend, one of the Die-Hard Metallic series. It is a collection of the recent poems of the terrifyingly prolific Sheena Blackhall – she produced a whole pamphlet of childrens’ verse on a flight to Vietnam for a wedding – and includes poems in Doric and English, poems written in song and in ballad form as well as in less structured forms, poems about animals, landscape, language and poetry and a lot of poems about death. Death is the big topic this year and almost everyone at Callendar had at least one poem about it.
Sheena’s poetry is both lively and thoughtful, profoundly reflective, lyrical and comic. And sometimes all in the one poem. She is hard to categorise – and would resent the effort to do it, as the witty New Cottage Industry points out. She us popular and accessible; her pamphlet The Win and the Rain which was written for the Tsunami appeal in Aberdeen, sold out completely. But there is nothing superficial or ephemeral about it. A poem from it, The Birth of Death is included in this collection, and still moves even after other catastrophes have pushed the Tsunami out of the headlines.
The picture below shows two of my favourite poems, but it also shows one of the features of the Metallic design – the ‘trip to Jerusalem ‘ binding which allows the book to open flat. The publisher Ian King gave us a demonstration of this process, pointing out that it was cheap and easy, and if you can make your own books, no-one can stop you writing what you like. But I’m afraid the longer he talked, the more convinced I became that it is actually very difficult, highly skilled work requiring a more than the average amount of dexterity, dedication and good judgement, and will not be attempted by me any time soon.