Review of anthology :- This Gift of Time – Open Book

Very few people knew, ( but now,  most of Orkney and its friends ) that I like and write poetry . How TON got to know is a great question, but I am glad they did. This anthology is worthwhile. 

Opening an anthology can be compared with going into a party with  people you have never met. Some you will “click” with immediately, others you are less comfortable with . Some poems will stay with you like companions, connecting you with; times places and emotions remembered.

So this anthology with, in some cases its group writing, was a revelation.

For me, writing poetry is a deeply personal thing, so the notion of people  sharing that task was; edgy, challenging, frankly quite disturbing, and yet it works . Not always, in my humble opinion,  but when it does it soars. “Dreams” “Never Again” “Ullapool’s Sonic Adventure ” are delightful and engaging in their very different ways . 

Initially my reaction to the anthology was one of disappointment. Nothing to do with the writing , much more the media. I can read a book on any media from paper to screen or e-reader but poetry is different . I need it in my hand and this came to me as a PDF . Amazing what you can achieve with a printer and a stapler. Suddenly it was as I like it, I can read it, put it down, make coffee, return to it, or not . Poetry for me is an indulgence and I treat it as that . Others use chocolate . But I can’t put chocolate down, some addictions are better for you. 

Two words stand out for me in discussing “This Gift of Time  :- Community and Currency . 

First to recognise is that the  title neatly links threads of time, it works for that reason alone, as a collection .

Community, possibly because of the collective  approach either to writing or to the  context in which it was shared,  seems to come across. When I saw the Poem in Stranraer Library, a place I know well , I felt I was there, listening  to it . But the group approach was eye opening for me . 

Currency because so many of the themes were of our time. A question arises, “will this date them” or will it mean that they have a poignancy that accurately describes our present state for future generations ? Read it, tell me. 

Annie Barclay’s Birdsong and Flowers is a stark remind of the currency of  our environmental responsibilities as is James Adams “The Antarctic “ and Isobel Watt’s “Planet Blues. Morag Hammill’s :”Ritual of a Lockdown Survivor “ will see knowing smiles as we unwittingly repeat her observations . Isabella Pattison’s Cloud Storage will be familiar to many of us as will  Akkie’s  excellent, ” The Knocking Glass. ” 

There are poems of place. The one of which I enjoyed most was Kate Bassett’s defence of, I assume, her home in “Colours of Westray .” There are poems of emotion . I took the liberty of reading ” Second Chance” by Barbara Prater to a friend for whom it was relevant, she was moved to tears . 

Some poems surprised me because they challenge my prejudices . I’m not keen on Haiku, yet as someone who likes trees and forests, the precision, clarity and economy of words in Julie Anne Thomasen’s Haiku “Tree Chain” really opened my eyes. Same can be said of Nancy Craig’s “Cottage Lives .” When I saw what seems to be a domestic piece I was unsure,  but Nancy takes you skillfully and caringly  on a journey that transcends generations and leaves you with a feeling of familiarity. 

Am I allowed favourites ? I’ll give myself permission. Cottage Lives and Haiku Tree Chain, and one I haven’t mentioned yet  Audrey Birt’s “Lightness” which gives a glimpse of intimacy, beautifully crafted. 

Will “ This Gift of Time “ be cast away or kept ? Kept, albeit floppily amongst its more fortunate bound colleagues 

Steve Sloan 

To purchase a copy click on this link: This Gift of Time

Related article:

This Gift of Time: Giving Voice to the Unheard

Rainbow over Mill Sands Credit: Bell

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