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Review of Book of Lives - Martin Bax, Ambit Magazine24 July 2007
Edwin Morgan (now in his eighties) contributes as strong a collection as ever. Full of his great range. Good to see one of his 'science fiction' poems: 'On the Way to Barnard's Star' within the poem sequence 'Planet Wave'. A marvellous fiction of arriving:Previous review of 'A Book of Lives'... Next review of 'A Book of Lives'... To the 'A Book of Lives' page...
in bursts, were slowing, were slewing
past the dull red glow of Barnard's Star
down to its planet, slowly, in bursts,
landing at last on waves of grass.
It would be nice to think that we will get away from this probably doomed planet and this is our future. They're excellent poems with a historical basis. In the poem 'End of the Dinosaurs' a man in a treehouse is watching the dying of the dinosaur. Sitting in the safety of his tree he ends with this quote:
my friends, that's you and me
branched on a different tree:
what shall we do or be?
The strength of Morgan's other skills is always demonstrated. There's a translation of a text by Robert Baston: 'The Battle of Bannockburn'. A splendid translation of the last two lines where Carmelite is worrying about whether he's told the story properly:
If it is my sin to have left out what should be in,
Let others begin to record it, without rumour or spin.
I wondered what the literal translation of 'spin' would be.
There is a series of love poems which are largely homosexual in origin, the best of which is 'G', a partly dialect poem. Perhaps inevitably there is a 9/11 poem but there is a better one on what followed, entitled 'The War on the War on Terror'.
In 'Conversation in Palestine' the poet writer introduces Wittgenstein which causes some confusion. I must confess that I'd have buried the first two poems in the book 'For the Opening of the Scottish Parliament, 9 October 2004' and 'Acknowledge the Unacknowledged Legislators!' in the middle of the book. But then I'm not the poet laureate of Scotland or Scotland's 'Makar'.
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