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Kenneth Steven's Letting in the Light

Intimate new collection from one of Scotland's leading poets

Letting in the light300Letting in the Light
By Kenneth Steven
SPCK
ISBN 978-0-281-07670-3
Reviewed by Shaun Lambert

Writing poetry is not about knowing how to do conjuring tricks with words. It is seeing clearly and writing what is real and Real. In the same way it is wrong to dissect a poem, and pull it to bits like a flower. A poem is a living thing and should be treated as such, to be placed against what is real and Real.

In reading this collection of poems by Kenneth Steven, a Christian and one of Scotland’s leading poets, what is more important to say is this: if you want to have something bloom inside you then read these poems. The collection is a doorway that lets in the light, but light as you might not have thought about, unexpected angles on light.

In inhabiting this collection learn that blinks are important, that sadness is not the end but a beginning, and an honouring of what has been lost…that things can be found. Learn that paying attention heals, and helps us remember and glues the pieces of our life back together.

Shiver, and run, and walk, and witness, and notice, and feel your way through these poems.
 
Only now should I say that the author walks the edge of pain in these poems – bereavement, marital breakdown and separation from his beloved young daughter. And yet all the while light leaks in.

There is no avoidance here, or clinging to what is not possible – the balance of attention between time, and place, home and pain is exquisitely held. He could almost be wrestling or dancing with reality as the windows of his tolerance are stretched almost to breaking. It is as if he is making finely tuned living sculptures where the nerves are exposed in each poem.

The experiences are remade in words, as if for an inner healing, but as he makes each poem, they find the tune of pain, sadness and joy in each of us. We find the times, places and experiences in our own lives that need to be remembered, honoured, and mourned.

These are ‘words burned in frozen snow'. Here we find the real and the Real.
 

Shaun Lambert is minister of Stanmore Baptist Church


Baptist Times, 28/10/2016
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