Brian Johnstone has published two poetry collections and two pamphlets; his second full collection The Book of Belongings was published by Arc in August 2009. His work has appeared throughout the UK, in America and in various European countries. His poems 'evoke...a sense of spiritual immanence in their slow still spaces' (Scottish Literary Journal); several have been translated into Catalan, Swedish, Slovakian & Lithuanian, and published in the respective countries. In 2009 Terra Incognita, a small collection of his poems in Italian translation, was published by L’Officina (Vicenza). Brian Johnstone is the poet member of Trio Verso, a collaboration with saxophonist Richard Ingham and bassist Louise Major, dedicated to presenting live poetry and improvised jazz-inflected soundscapes. He is co-founder and currently Festival Director of StAnza: Scotland’s International Poetry Festival.
He'd tie them by their necks
with binder twine
his father slipped him from the shed,
watch mouse flesh stiffen, give up
what he knew of life
suspended from the fence: each skeleton
a minuscule perfection.
And later, with the rats,
whose worm-grooved tails a half-inch tack
fixed limp outside the byre,
he'd study transformation, till each
tined incisor grinned.
In growing up with vermin - weasels, stoats
and more - he'd learned them all
the hard way, strung up on a wire:
the thieves that flanked the killing ground
of Christ, the hoodie crow
they'd pinned spread-eagled on a rail
and planted in the margins of the yard.
There worms diced
meat and muscle for his robes,
the alpha and the omega,
each quill a black and feathered script,
his writing on the wall.