‘Edwin and Willa Muir: A Literary Marriage’, by Margery Palmer McCulloch

Edwin Muir and his poetry, prose and literary criticism have long been the cynosure of critical attention, although some of it misguided and reductive as Palmer McCulloch points out here. In a strongly loving and literary marriage of two driven intellectuals living through some of the most pivotal and turbulent moments in the twentieth century, […]

‘More Patina than Gleam’, by Jane Aldous

More Patina than Gleam marks Jane Aldous’s seventieth birthday in the form of seventy connected sonnets that make up an alternative history of her early life, a poetic novella of sorts. The book imagines a mother, Linda, fleeing an abusive relationship in England and seeking refuge in the genteel poverty of a large Edinburgh house […]

‘The Ages of Water’, by Walter Perrie

The Ages of Water, Walter Perrie’s seventh book-length collection, has been six years in the writing but draws upon over six decades of experience. While there are hints of advancing age and memento mori dotted throughout, this collection is an impressive display of poetic as well as noetic vigour, Perrie having had a background in […]

‘Kitchen Music’, by Lesley Harrison

An increasing number of poets think that the job of a poet is to do anything but write poems – it’s about cultivating and raising an image, selling a brand, getting into regular stramashes on social media. It’s becoming more uncommon to find poets who simply get on with the private and at times unrewarding […]

‘From Our Own Fire’, by William Letford

It’s very likely that many critics and reviewers will facilely describe this, Letford’s hotly anticipated third book and first in seven years, as a ‘dystopian’ tale in poetry and prose. From Our Own Fire takes place in a completely plausible near future where capitalist society has entirely collapsed due to the rise of an AI […]

‘Perthshire 101: A Poetic Gazetteer’, edited by Andy Jackson 

I’ll be honest, there are some niche poetry anthologies that seem to me a bit de trop – we barely notice if they do or don’t exist as they serve pretty much as an ego boost for the poets included and the editor, and little else. This isn’t one of those. There are many districts, […]

‘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 […]

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