Poems. Iain Banks and Ken MacLeod

Borrowed from a threatened library.

 Poems cover

Poetry is not really my comfort zone but I felt I had to read this for completeness as it would mean I have now read all of Banks’s published works (and I think all of MacLeod’s.) Before he became aware of his final illness Banks had suggested to MacLeod that they publish a book of their (separately written) poems. The idea was that each might provide cover for the other. MacLeod initially demurred but bowed to Banks’s insistence. This collection is the result.

The Banks poems feature first and show a considerable fondness for wordplay, always likely to endear itself to me. (Indeed, the line, ‘I suspect the boy has hidden shallows’ – from I to I – contains an example I have used myself in conversation but was liable to occur to anyone whose mind runs along similar lines.) “The truth is just a lie/that corresponds to the facts” from Revue is a more contentious inversion. Check out, though, the sentiments in A Word to the Wise.

MacLeod’s poems tend to have less wordplay (but it is not entirely absent) and he is more willing to essay poems containing the demands of a rhyme scheme – with its attendant danger of descent into doggerel; a danger which he rises effortlessly above. Macleod’s poems have perhaps a greater tendency to express left wing sentiments than those of Banks. The opening line “I cannae write in Scots” from Scots Poet, Not where he appears to lament his parents’ decision only to speak English to him as a child, also struck a chord with me, as my mother’s parents both came up from England before they met in Glasgow and Scots therefore didn’t form a large part of my background.

Pedant’s corner:- math (maths, please,) Fom (From.)

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