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This review is taken from PN Review 256, Volume 47 Number 2, November - December 2020.

Cover of The Station Before
Genevieve StevensLinda Anderson, The Station Before (Pavilion Poetry) £9.99
Whether Linda Anderson’s collection, The Station Before (Liverpool UP/ Pavilion) is looking to her past, present, dreams or the lives of others, its preoccupation is the same: to privilege seeing; to rapturously observe our lives so that we might uncover new meaning. The spirit of quest both binds these incongruent perspectives together and gives the collection pulse and intent. Anderson’s voice, positioned at this frightening fault line of seeing/unseeing, memory/imagination, past/present arrives on the page quietly, with patience, sorrow and consideration. And how deftly she shifts – between precise, lucid poems about the past, to impressionistic poems that propel themselves behind the eyes of others, to abstract poems that gesture to the half-knowing of dreams and to mournful poems that despair of the present – a place of echoes, rubble, glimpses, wraiths, a place where nothing quite adds up: ‘Always it’s hard to know / what’s real’ the narrator quietly asserts in ‘Fire’. These are not poems that manically dash about or shout for attention; their voice is poised and their shape largely contained in regular couplets, quatrains and sonnets. Anderson’s language likewise does not push for idiom or explicit playfulness but quietly asserts itself through precision – a rapturous contemplation so focused on its subject it clears the page of ego.

Accompanying the poems across these great distances are birds – a veritable aviary of fulmars, ravens, kittiwakes, lapwings or just ‘some creature [that] flutters through’. They are peculiar, elusive presences; entirely gathered into themselves, they arrive like a kind of shadow meaning, a migrating ...

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