If there could ever be the right – the only – title for this poetry collection, then Lamping for Pickled Fish might be it, setting the reader up as it so neatly does for the illicit, for the hidden and obscure and for journeys into unexpected spaces. … McDonough is a forager, avid in pursuit of the wild jewels of shoreline and hedgerow in her native north-east Scotland and a maker. A maker of jam, from Ronnie’s stolen rhubarb; of soused herring in the title poem; of a young adult from a toddler; and, effortlessly, of words from other words.
The M Pages opens with ‘Death of an Actress’, a poem layered with literary references, and heavy with a clever litany of clichés, both witty and poignant. That wit is intrinsic to these poems. Throughout tragic, shocking and sombre passages, Bryce’s fun with wordplay, and her tumbling rhyme never diminish, akin to the irreverent gallows humour which needfully so often accompanies mourning.
‘Tell all the truth but tell it slant’ If Emily Dickinson’s much-quoted line is a poets’ mantra, not for the first time reviewing, I have to ask – surely its application is wider? When Picasso unleashed Guernica‘s terrible pain and fury, how could he tell that trauma, other than slant? A creative act, burning the Read More
cos cheum nach gabh tilleadh For some, Robin Robertson’s book-length narrative poem is “unclassifiable”. Shortlisted for awards invariably dominated by prose, it is epic in both scale and ambition. Resisting the strict fit of epic form, its protagonist (the aptly-named Walker) is overly human for deification; its netherworld trips, earthly hells. Remembered paradises are also Read More
Find as far inland as Kintyre can allow, map back to an almost-anywhere dot. Out of seasight. Still, on clouded nights, watch Rathlin’s lit pattern censer past. A little industrial structure. One bog-footed cave built for burning. All rabbit shit, trotting-in lost sheep, broken curves open to host brackening rain. A dripped-on Alice, shrunk on Read More
Of rain and rushing water, dense with coils of razor wire masquerading as weeds. The fish were machine guns with fins and barrels that ruddered through the swift current like mermaids’ tails, so you could not tell who they were really pointed at, and who would die when they were fired. Perhaps the quotation above Read More
Time, which is itself encased in stunning script: Baikal poured into a single shell or glass receptacle. Belfast folk aver there was nothing wrong with the Titanic when she left their slipway. As that city’s inaugural laureate Sinéad Morrissey arrives in Newcastle, her most recent collection On Balance opens by contemplating the fated liner’s Read More
[S]ongs made dearer when gone than ever they were, sung by heroes, animal spirits[.] There has been a need for this volume for some time, a need perhaps fully established at Riley’s Light, the 2015 Helen Mort-organised Leeds University conference. Indeed many luminaries, Vahni Capildeo, Andrew McMillan, Ian Duhig and more have shared that journey. Read More
Barkskins: a simple title for a book which is vast in scope and ambition. Pulitzer Prize-winner Annie Proulx of course has a distinguished background in considering North America’s growing pains protracted over centuries, cultures and evolving politics. She is well able to recognise which grafts take and which do not. So who better to tackle Read More
her black door like an omen […] As the title implies, Buried Music resonates with losses, being filled with many kinds of grief. The collection addresses bereavement (especially that of his father) principally, but also it considers the poet’s own challenged and diminishing health. For all that, Buried Music mines the quirkiness of Read More