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This report is taken from PN Review 261, Volume 48 Number 1, September - October 2021.

on Brian Johnstone Robyn Marsack
Brian Johnstone, poet and co-founder of StAnza – Scotland’s international poetry festival – died in May, a month after the online launch of what he knew would be his last collection, The Marks on the Map.

In his memoir Double Exposure (2017) Brian described his genteel upbringing in Edinburgh, where he was born in 1950. His mother thought plain loaves, listening to music on a ‘transistor radio’ and Glasgow were ‘common’. Brian, however, relished the changes the 1960s and 1970s offered in Scotland. His old friend Drew Clegg recalled the heady days of undergraduate life in St Andrews, when Brian was the Entertainments Convenor and persuaded Pink Floyd to come to the town. ‘Back then you might have seen the Floyd in London at the Roundhouse or in Paris or Berlin, but St Andrews? Brian charmed them and they came and in that youthful moment,’ Drew wrote in his tribute on the StAnza blog, ‘we can see the quintessential Brian Johnstone. You aim high.’ Brian celebrated music ‘from Elvis to Ivan, from Dusty to Sandy, from Beatles to Incredibles, from Skiffle to Prog’ in his 2018 pamphlet Juke Box Jeopardy, handsomely published by Red Squirrel.

While working as a primary-school teacher in Edinburgh, Brian lapsed from writing for a long period, but after he founded Shore Poets with Roz Brackenbury in 1991, he returned to a serious pursuit of poetry. Scottish Cultural Press published his first full collection, The Lizard Silence, in 1996. Shore Poets, shortly to celebrate its 30th anniversary, mixed ...


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