Gerda’s poetry collection IF THIS WERE REAL was published in 2013 by Smokestack Books: .
Press response to the poetry collection IF THIS WERE REAL by Gerda Stevenson, (pub. Smokestack Books, 2013)
We ask some of Scotland's top writers, broadcasters and political figures to share the books that have inspired, informed and entertained them this year. Ron Butlin, author, writes: “Gerda Stevenson's If This Were Real (Smokestack Books, £7.95) promises much and delivers. The best of the new in contemporary Scottish poetry - not to be missed.” Sunday Herald, 1 December 2013.
If This Were Real by Gerda Stevenson
“Gerda Stevenson is one of Scotland's great renaissance women, equally gifted at acting, directing and writing. She has written, adapted and performed in numerous radio plays, as well as writing and directing for the stage, and has starred alongside Mel Gibson in Braveheart. In 2012 her layered, nuanced play Federer Versus Murray enthralled a packed audience off-Broadway.
Stevenson belongs to a family notable for its musical talents (father Ronald Stevenson is a renowned composer, sister Savourna an eminent clàrsach player, niece Anna-Wendy a highly regarded fiddler). Her husband is Gaeldom's most imaginative poet and librettist, Aonghas MacNeacail. This is Stevenson's first full-length collection and it arrives with a considerable weight of expectation. Stevenson has been publishing poems in magazines and newspapers for some years now, impressing readers with her intellectually and emotionally engaging work. If This Were Real is described as an autobiography in verse and it brings to life a journey that is personal and political, intense and wide-ranging. Stevenson's way is compassionate, defiant and honest. These poems offer authentic meanings, connections, ideas. Poems of childhood reanimate vivid experiences and people with both power and subtlety. The tones are a shifting, compelling blend of joyous, plaintive, humorous and poignant.
Stevenson's lines are clean, clear, musical. The inherent fallibilities and sad frailties of humankind and nature alike are explored with an edgy panache. Stevenson's childhood 'Eden' is a very Scottish paradise, one in which a neighbour, with Calvinist zeal, berates the happily playing girls, 'Get out! / Get out of my garden, / you dirty, dirty girls!', a cry akin to Alastair Reid's famous 'We'll pay for it!' Stevenson finds, and recreates, a magnificent joy…an antidote to the pains that can otherwise beset a sensitive, intelligent mind. She delights in sharing with the reader the most resonant, spirited and meaningful of experiences. These cool or impassioned, always clear-eyed, poems comfort and disturb, sadden and enlighten; they at once ground and elevate the reader. Though Gerda Stevenson is very much a poet with her own style, If This Were Real put me in mind of Iain Crichton Smith's A Life, both books being autobiographical collections written by remarkable Scots who have had lives rich in moments of eloquence, insight and empathy.”
Kevin MacNeil, ASLS magazine, The Bottle Imp, 2014
“Brings a fresh eye and a wise head to familiar Scottish themes.” Tribune Magazine, July 2013.
IF THIS WERE REAL, by Gerda Stevenson: “In ‘Co-Op Funeral Parlour’, with which I’m still light-headed, the speaker contemplates her own child, as the infant lies in a coffin. The poem’s vertiginous emotional charge is achieved by the unflinching control of the language in the face of intimate, inscrutable devastation – as if daring itself to find the image, and let that image do its dark work. The best poems here fuse figurative and emotional life to haunting effect.” Wordpress, 2014.
“…depth, humanity, music. Love poems in the widest sense.”
If This Were Real In July 2014, Gerda toured Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, as part of The 15th Annual Authors' Reading Month More press responses to Gerda’s poetry:
Time and Space
The full moon
pins us in its circle
as we meet
in the kitchen hallway,
each on some small
I turn off the light,
the better to see us,
husband and wife,
held between walls
by the night’s pure beam,
the journey we’ve made
to this moment,
a mere blink
of that cold eye
'A tranquil domestic moment caught by the distinguished pen of Gerda Stevenson, actress, writer and director. The poem is included in Stone Going Home Again, New Writing Scotland 28, edited by Alan Bissett and Carl MacDougall (Association For Scottish Literary Studies, £7.95)' – Lesley Duncan, Poetry Editor, The Herald, 18th August, 2010. “...first rate work from Gerda Stevenson...” Joy Hendry, Editorial of CHAPMAN literary magazine, 2009. Prize winning poem: Gerda's poem, HAME-COMIN, was the winner of YES Arts Festival Poetry Challenge competition, 2013, judged by Allan Massie, Rosemary Goring and Tom Murray.