Shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney First Collection Poetry Prize 2021
Linda Anderson's much anticipated first collection travels across time and space, employing a range of voices, including historical ones. At the heart of the collection, though, is always the moment of encounter, the moment when things appear strange, before they settle into a pattern or become known. This is as true of the explorer Charles Kingsley, awed by the Caribbean landscape, as it is of the poet herself, confronted with moments of vision or almost vision, either in her own travels, or in the ordinariness of a domestic life. Nothing is quite secure in this collection: memory destabilizes with its resurrections; seeing has many angles and cannot be taken for granted; borders fluctuate and crossings abound. And although not afraid to draw on ideas from many sources, these poems often explore how thinking masks a fragility, the knowledge of our mortal selves. What are the fragments that make a poem, the book asks? How are they held within a form? And how do we negotiate the multiple memories, ideas, sights, meetings, and losses which constitute us and our complex selves.
'This marvellous first book is a journey into the wisdom of years - it knows 'arrival is a myth', that we live in a constantly unfolding mystery, fluttering in our memories, hovering over the present, pollinating the page with our presence. And as the poems roam from post-war Scotland to tropical lushness the reader is drawn deeper and deeper into an astonishing attention to the 'uncontrollably multiple' world around us, and the parallel world within.'
'Linda Anderson’s The Station Before is a wondrous lyric meditation on liminal space— temporal and sensory thresholds, fissures, glimpses of world flickering in consciousness, and most especially the moment of taking pen to paper. The poet untethers herself from all certainties to set the mind aloft, accompanied throughout by winged beings: among them fulmars, kittiwakes, ravens and lapwings in a virtual aviary of tutelary spirits. Great distances are crossed within and without, and if a secret is revealed it is this: Always write in the moment. There is a truth/ that cannot afterwards be transcribed. Anderson’s poems are luminous with this truth.'
'Linda Anderson’s is a poetry of acute perception and close scrutiny, where ideas and feelings are fused in patient enquiry about what and who and how we know. A subtle music invites and receives the reader’s trust in the work of Anderson’s imagination.'
'“Tilted between past and present”, a childhood in post-war Scotland and the death of a Father, Anderson surveys the tender remnants of life… In these lyrical and liminal poems “arrival is a myth” and we can only ever reach The Station Before.'
Poetry Book Society
'When a life-long academic distills a lifetime of images into a such a tight collection, the result is as strong as aged single-malt whiskey. This is the good stuff hidden on the top shelf, only uncorked at weddings and funerals... Anderson’s writing is precise, meticulous, and bursting with acuity.'
DM O’Connor, RHINO Poetry
'In The Station Before, Linda Anderson demonstrates a clear eye, a depth of thought, and a probing, restless intelligence. Whether watching a fulmar fly or giving voice to Virginia Woolf in her study, Anderson's attentiveness and her discreet, convincing music are entrancing and deeply impressive. After reading her some trace of the poems remains, some 'intimacy left over' like 'a dusting of pollen'.'
Nick Laird, Seamus Heaney First Collection Poetry Prize Judge
'Whether Linda Anderson’s collection, The Station Before 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. [...] 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. [...] 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.'
Genevieve Stevens, PN Review