Dry Stone Work

The third full collection by Brian Johnstone, and his second to be published by Arc in their Poetry from the UK & Ireland series, May 2014.

A grounded yet playful collection from an assured poet, flexing his muscles into newer territory. As well as the deep lineage of rural landscapes that populated previous collections, here Johnstone treats us to an extended trip to the circus, where the glitz and thrill of the big top and its stunts are peeled back to allow us into the physical and emotional rigour that forms the show’s backbone.  Elsewhere poems transport you more literally through music, movies and TV history, around Europe and into the distant past, again balancing between illusion and the tension that supports it in the more mundane world. And throughout, the tone and language also plays an ingenious balancing act between the structured, the rhyming and the informal. This is a personal and expansive collection, honest and exploratory.
                                                      blurb by Sarah Hymas

reviews

A Poetic master ... [a] skilled builder, who knows how to weight his words and fit them together with care.
                                                      Susan Mansfield, Scotland on Sunday

One of the delights of Johnstone’s poetry is the precision of his imagery. [The] poems range widely in subject matter but the collection coheres. This is provided in part by the consistent musicality of Johnstone’s writing. Throughout the collection, the internal rhymes and rhythms lift the poems off the page.
                                                       Lindsay Macgregor, Dundee University Review of the Arts

Johnstone's poems are meticulously crafted, grounded and resonant by their own measure…the poet's language and construction bear[ing] an inspiring semblance to his theme and suggest[ing] a veiled world that exists beyond his subject.
                                                       Philip Clement, Stride

Subject matter full of movement is stilled byelegant and sophisticated verse… Nothing in here is humdrum, nothing is over-personal. It’s a kaleidoscope of language as well as of the world. Brian Johnstone’s voice has reached mastery in these poems. You can tell who wrote them.
                                                       Sally Evans, Northwords Now

comments

Brian Johnstone appears to have taken to heart, or learned by instinct and experience, Robert Frost’s advice to avoid approaching a poem’s subject too directly. A consequence of this is that Johnstone’s poems establish their own presence, leaving room for mystery and lyricism to emerge with a convincing uniqueness. Dry Stone Work is a robust collection, packed with original strengths, delicacies, variety, and a vivid awareness of life. An impressive collection, then, not just to be recommended, but to be read and re-read.                                                                                                                       Douglas Dunn

The use of language is authentic and precise, and the perception of an often-hidden world fascinating and genuine.                                                          David Morley on The Ring Cycle sequence

Good variety and 'finish' - I was struck by the way the poems conclude: like a potter taking things deftly off the wheel.                                                               Alexander Hutchison

[In his] poetry he often wears his heart on his sleeve but the thread of the jacket frequently matches your own...                                                                Neil Anderson, introduction at book launch

cover image

Star Chart by Will Maclean