‘First Hare’, by Richie McCaffery

Richie McCaffery’s new pamphlet First Hare (Mariscat Press, 2020), with its beautiful and arresting cover illustration by Brent Millar, is another strong showcase of his signature style: tightly controlled, object-orientated poems and skilfully-crafted lyric vignettes that glitter with meaningful promise, always offering more as you hold them up to the light, turning them as you […]

‘The Fall at Home: New and Collected Aphorisms’ by Don Paterson

Until this book recently came my way for review, I was unaware of poet Don Paterson’s parallel life as an aphorist but having read it, I am grateful for the chance encounter. The Fall at Home is his third collection – a ‘New and Collected’ – of this pithy, peppery but under-appreciated literary form. Paterson, […]

‘The Games’ by Harry Josephine Giles

I’ve heard film theory circles discuss movies that ‘break the fourth wall’, meaning that the film is suddenly no longer contained in the pre-determined confines of its medium and instead transgresses those boundaries, often addressing us directly. As a poet, Harry Josephine Giles is not content to let their work languish in the two-dimensional paper […]

‘Floating the Woods’ by Ken Cockburn

Floating the Woods, Ken Cockburn’s latest collection from Luath Press, contains in an authorial ‘Afterword’ the admission that all of these poems came about from various writing commissions, collaborations and residencies in his capacity as a freelance poet. Yet, for poems written for special occasions, this collection does not come across as disjointed, but rather […]

‘Learning How to Sing’ by James Aitchison

I once reviewed a collection of poems by the fine poet James McGonigal in which he, in a very genuinely diffident way, referred to himself as a beginner or a learner in the field of poetry. What strikes me with James Aitchison’s latest collection Learning How to Sing is that again, I have come across […]

‘The Third Mandarin’ by Frank Kuppner

  199. As they walk slowly among the trees, it occurs to them That they might well never meet again in this disordered world. And so, simultaneously, each turns to the other To say what he really thinks of his dear friend’s vast output of poetry.   It seems de rigueur now for a reviewer […]

‘Equal Night’ & ‘Circulation’ by Graham Fulton

Considered side by side, Fulton’s 2017 collection dealing with the illness and death of his mother, Equal Night, and his latest collection, Circulation, look a little at first like the masks of Sock and Buskin. The former is strongly elegiac whereas the latter, like the title suggests, is about creative blood and playfulness beginning to […]

‘The First World Congress of Scottish Literatures in Glasgow 2014’ eds. Müller, Schwittlinsky, and Walker

This edited volume of written up papers given at the first World Congress of Scottish Literatures in Glasgow in 2014 is the latest volume in the ‘Scottish Studies International’ series from Peter Lang: International Academic Publishers. Two words of particular note in the previous sentence:  ‘international’ and ‘literatures’ (plural), and the double-edged quality of the […]

‘The Winter Book’ by Alan Riach

The heft, both physical and intellectual, of The Winter Book reminds me of a phrase Norman MacCaig once used about his writing practices as a poet. He said that he spent his long holidays in Assynt as an excuse to ‘fatten up’ his ‘camel’s hump’ of images to live off (i.e. write poems) through the […]

‘Facing the Persians’ by Ian A. Olson

This first collection of poems by ‘long-retired doctor’ Ian Olson is the fruit of some sixty or more years of writing and as such, it really is a gallimaufry of styles, moods and subjects. The language accordingly also ranges from the formal and rhyming, to pawky, free and colloquial. It begins far back in classical […]

‘Fugitive Colours’ by Liz Lochhead

Fugitive Colours follows Lochhead’s 2011 publication of selected poems A Choosing, but it is really her first full collection since 2003’s The Colour of Black & White. Coming, as it does, at the tail-end of her time as Scots Makar, the book could be seen as a celebratory swansong for her public role but also […]

‘Redomones and Eye to the Future’ by Alan MacGillivray

Redomones is Alan MacGillivray’s fifth poetry collection. But it is the first substantial contact this particular reviewer has had with MacGillivray’s work, beyond individual poem appearances in magazines and papers such as The Herald. This is arguably not a disadvantage, as Redomones is a real gallimaufry of moods, subjects and styles (from elegy to ballad) all connected by an […]

Best Scottish Books 2019

Welcome to the Best Scottish Books of 2019! ASLS has asked poets, writers, critics, academics, and members of the literary sector to tell us about their favourite Scottish book from this past year. The book could be in any language spoken in Scotland; it could be published for the first time in 2019 or re-issued […]

‘The Tiny Talent: Selected Poems of Joan Ure’

‘There was this woman and she had this tiny talent’. So begins the poem whose title is that of this short collection of the late Joan Ure’s poetry. Yet, if the poem is to be read as self-referent, one has to reflect that Ure in her writing, whether dramatic or poetic, was a sophisticated – […]

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