Monday, December 21, 2009

TLS Review and New Scottish Fashion

Great to see Carrie Etter’s review of The Opposite of Cabbage in the Christmas double-issue of the Times Literary Supplement. It’s only on paper, not online (unless you’re a TLS subscriber), but it’s a very positive review and focuses both on the collection’s recurring themes and on the detail of individual poems. A few snippets:

Rob A Mackenzie’s first full collection inhabits present-day Scotland in all its liveliness, banality and bad weather… Mackenzie’s vigorous urban language, often employed in declarative sentences, vivifies it all.

One of Mackenzie’s stylistic hallmarks is paradox tinged with irony, as when a man ‘loses with a symbolic victory secured’… These apparently oxymoronic statements that pepper the volume suggest that people negotiate such contradictions as part of the difficulty of living, at the same time as they contribute to the book’s conception of the zeitgeist.

The Opposite of Cabbage impresses with its distinctive style and energetic exploration of ‘the way we live now’.

Anyway, a nice Christmas present for me.

Another Salt book, Mark Waldron’s The Brand New Dark is also reviewed, on the same page, by Ben Wilkinson. I haven’t read this book yet but it does sound like a collection I‘m liable to like. Ben says that:

The success of the book, however, stems from the way in which Waldron handles the sinister, noirish aspects of contemporary life… Waldron’s gift is to approach these subjects from oblique angles, often with a tone that is more implicating than accusatory.

I like the image Ben quotes straight afterwards, from a poem called ‘The Sausage Factory’, in which the meat is figured as “wee circus elephants, /gripping the tail of the one that goes before, /marching uncertainly away from death” (and for once, of course, I've been glad to set out poetry in sausage-quotes).

I’ve read three collections recently - Don Paterson’s Rain (Faber), Brian McCabe’s Zero (Polygon) and John Glenday’s Grain (Picador). Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Three recent Scottish poetry collections all with single-word titles. Is it a new fashion? I suppose you could add Richard Price’s Rays too. Probably just coincidence although, as George MacLeod (late leader of the Iona Community) said, “If you believe in coincidence, I wish you a very dull life.” They are all good books in very different ways.

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