Homages to Kettillonia

On Donald Murray's 'Between Minch and Muckle Flugga

"Anyone interested in island life and the sea will enjoy this collection. Donald Murray has opted for a unity of subject-matter and also, to some extent, theme, in this volume. The result is a fascinating series of poems, each exploring a different aspect of what lies Between Minch and Muckle Flugga.

"A glance at the titles shows the poet's comprehensiveness and attention to detail: 'Fish Factory Girl', 'Gutting-Knife', 'Lerwick Pier, 1913', 'Harvest of Whales', 'Lewis Seamen, 1963', 'Teenage Harbour', 'Sea Speech', 'Spaces for the Shipwrecked', for example. But this doesn't tell the whole story. There are poems which act as vivid recreations of a certain time or a particular event, but they rarely stick there: most go well beyond the factual-sounding title. In 'Following His Vocation', for example, a Lighthouse keeper's crisis of faith is really an exploration of the psychological consequences of religious extremism. Likewise, in 'The Girl Who Taught the Fisherman to Read', a generally light-hearted poem based on an amusing conceit, there are darker reminders of the dangers of fishing: '...when a dark storm swayed the world/ swirling till a rockpool was disturbed/ by a corpse...' and gentle warnings about what may happen when the 'drag and swell of words' is 'cut loose'.

"The hardships involved in making a living from the sea, both past and present, feature in several poems. Donald Murray writes from genuine understanding and with informed affinity here: there is no easy romanticism, nor any forced bravado in his treatment of the subject... - The New Shetlander

On Sair Heid City

"O ony wrytin Scots the day, this maun be the name ti watch - a byordnar talent, an nae mistake... Gin whit's in the pamphlet stauns as a proper saimple, the publisher at haes the saul, the fecht an the gumption tae tak on [the haill novel]'ll gie the Scots leid the grittest upheeze it's haed sen the 'Drunk Man'." [Colin Donati, Lallans]

On A Tunnel of Love

"Sometimes you can read a collection of poems and know, instantly and deeply, that this will change the way you look at all poetry collections in the future. Gordon Dargie's collection is one of these. His thirty-nine sonnet sequence (the larger, and most significant, part of this pamphlet) sets a standard against which you will measure your future reading - for structure, for narrative control, for language, for new ways of writing about being human."

On Hem and Heid

"It's rare for a reviewer to have no real criticisms of the work in hand, or even cavils, but with James Robertson's Hem and Heid this is happily the case. While bearing in mind that any pamphlet has a naturally higher concentration of good work than a full collection (one of the joys of the pamphlet), and striving to manufacture ways of appraising the poems in less than glowing terms, I am still at a loss. The book is simply a delight."