Poetry pamphlets are a beautiful way for a poet to pull together a collection of their works in an accessible format which encourages even non-lovers of the artform to have a look. Edinburgh based, Stewed Rhubarb Press, are expert publishers in this particular field and recently published their latest pamphlet, The Highland Citizenship Test by Colin Bramwell.
Bramwell is well known on the spoken word poetry scene in Scotland and, with the runner-up place for the Edwin Morgan Poetry Prize last year and two previous accolades from the Wigtown Poetry Prize, this collection has been much anticipated. His Highland roots (Bramwell hails from the Black Isle) and the title of the collection lead the reader to a certain level of expectation as to the content but the poems roam all over Scotland and it is not until the titular poem that the reader is brought firmly to the Highlands. Or so it appears. Because the poem is actually written in Scots – not a dialect often found in the hills and glens of the North of Scotland and so it seems somewhat at odds with the location it is attempting to inhabit. And yet the questions posed are entirely in keeping:
“Snow on the Ben – whit does that mean?”
Of course ‘home’ is not just a place, but the people you know, the voices you hear, the memories you hold, and in arguably the best poem in the collection – The Concert Pianist – the reader is repeatedly reminded what it is to forget these tangible symbols of home:
remember the music of her voice.”
Until disaster strikes and then: “Remember the music of her voice.”
As with most poetry collections some are better than others, and of course poetry is uniquely subjective so no doubt different readers will prefer different poems, but Bramwell’s touch of humour mingled amongst the poignancy cannot be denied – Fag Break, George IV Bridge standing out.
There is much to like and this pamphlet gives a good indication of how well they might come across performed as opposed to just being read.