by John Brewster
In Automatic Writing, John Brewster, moves from ‘Ixey-pixey’ wordplay to tender elegy; from Scots to English; from celebrations of life to intimations of a longing for death. These poems are precise – Brewster is a master of the ‘architectured word’ – yet there is a sense of something bigger and unwritten beyond the words on the page. This is poetry that speaks to the soul, the heart, the mind, the eye, the ear.
978-0-9926485-8-9. Cultured Llama. PB. 92pp. July 2015. £10.00.
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Here we have chunky, chewy, sinewy poems: the lines pulse out with energy – Scots virr – across the page and into the ear of the reader/listener.
Tom Hubbard, author of The Lucky Charm of Major Bessop
Ted Hughes wrote that “every poet does no more than find metaphors for his own nature”. John Brewster understands and exemplifies this. Readers of this long overdue collection will marvel at how he moves between deeply expressive English and natural Scots – even in the same poem, as he does in his moving dedication to the late Harvey Holton (‘yin yang’). There is the unexpected but always apposite imagery. There is the economy of utterance (this is a man who writes poetry seriously), the humility, empathy, and shamanistic vision and intelligence that drives the poetry. Most of all I am struck by the sensuousness that is atypical of much Scottish poetry – John is able to be both Mediterranean and Methil simultaneously. One of the keynote poems for me in a collection full of memorable poems is ‘A Different Way’. In three taut verses you have it all. John Brewster is his own man, with his own way of seeing and writing, but it is a very special way that connects past, present, body, soul, earth, sky – and it will connect with all who read it. We should treasure and celebrate his unique voice.
William Hershaw, author of Postcairds Fae Woodwick Mill – Orkney Poems In Scots
Although I like the title of John Brewster’s collection, there is absolutely nothing ‘automatic’ about the writing in this book. From the “kaleidoscope of turning hands” in ‘Deaf Children’s Choir Carol-Signing’, through the interplay of Scots and English in ‘yin yang’, the precise rhythms and rhymes of ‘Caffe Latte, St Andrews Style’, and the humour of “am aa din”, to the “lattice-leaden window of (the) soul” in ‘Valediction’, there is a wide-ranging intelligence, an incisive wit, and real compassion on show in these finely wrought poems.
John Brewster is a Scottish poet writing in English and Scots. He works as a writing tutor, belongs to the Scottish Book Trust’s pool of authors and is a Scots Patron of Reading. He has worked as an editor and translator, co-founding literary magazines and publishing the writing of others in courses he has taught. He is a qualified teacher, with a First in Divinity from St Andrews University.