From Publishers Weekly
Gathering the best-known work of one of the leading poets in the Scottish Literary renaissance, this volume displays Mackay Brown's gift for sharpening one's interest in genuinely rustic activities. In his world, a rough-hewn, remote island off the shore of Northern Scotland marked by anvils, spades and nets, stone kirks and bowls of ale, seasonal imagery and the lusciousness of agrarian life are explored with vigor and depth. After a day-long trip to the market: "The sun whirled on a golden hoof. It lingered. It fell/ On a nest of flares." In another song, the poet recounts a blinding storm: "In summer's sultry throat/ Dry thunder stammered./ ...Next morning in tranced sunshine/ The corn lay squashed on every hill;/ Tang and tern were strewn/ Among highest pastures." Mackay Brown (1921-1996) conjures the potent goodness of the pure, unsmogged world, and he allows the old, solid things of the earth to commerce freely with the world of song, and with the dance of English speech. Some of the poems are even directly religious, such as "Daffodils," which eulogizes three women who stayed at the base of Christ's cross while he died. Rhythmically, much of this work returns to the broken power of ancient "sprung" rhythms for its musical force. Mackay Brown's assertive, beautiful poems make this a collection worth having.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The poems that Brown (1921-1996) selected for this volume all originate in his character as an Orkneyman conscious of the conditions and history of his native place. He writes of treacherous seas, empty nets, and rocky fields, but also of unpretentious courage, luck, and sunlight converting death to new growth. The poems are generally unrhymed and terse, and the rhythms are those of the speaking voice. . . . They remind the reader that the story is still not "long to tell," and still leads to "a quieter alehouse, / Free drink, no hangovers." -- The Atlantic Monthly, Phoebe-Lou Adams