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From Our Own Fire
Categories: 21st Century, British, Scottish
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (112 pages)
(Pub. Aug 2023)
eBook (EPUB) Needs ADE!
(Pub. Aug 2023)
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A The Telegraph and Observer Book of the Year
This prose and poetry tour de force of storytelling has the narrative punch of a novel. It is a new departure for the poet, and for poetry itself. It takes the reader into the not-too-distant future: an artificial intelligence rules the world, and a working-class family use their wits to live off the land. William Letford blends prose and his inimitable poetry: sci-fi and hunter-gatherer are merged into a coherent story in the pages of a stonemason's journal.
'You won't see the best of a Macallum until you put something in their fist,' says Letford, introducing the family. 'Joiner, nurse, stonemason, hairdresser, plumber, gardener. Lorna even repairs vintage watches. That's the quantum mechanics of manual labour.' We join the Macallum family as they combine their skills to reconnect with the land in a world where the empowered are hell-bent on creating a new utopia. Joe, the stonemason, records in his journal the struggles and successes of a carnival of characters. They hurl grace and humour at a future that is being shaped by a single, powerful entity.
Letford's storytelling is gritty and beautiful. 'A Macallum, it seems to me now, is made to move, to think on the run. The sofas in our houses were sinkholes. The actors on a fifty-two-inch flat screen – shadows on a cave wall.'
'This is a spellbinder of a book: a fantastical, visionary dystopian Scottish soap opera in which poetry and prose are fused and old human ways collide with frighteningly uncharted artificial intelligence. A leavening wit keeps the fire smouldering throughout. Letford is an inexplicably underrated poet given his exceptional gift.'
Kate Kellaway, The Guardian
'One of the things I love most is seeing a writer really stretch themselves, as with the profound, hilarious and empathetic From Our Own Fire by William Letford... This is a genuinely groundbreaking piece of work, hilarious and thought-provoking in equal measure. I can't wait to see what Letford does next.'
Doug Johnstone, Big Issue
'Letford's book is perfectly timed: gripping, entertaining and desperate... The imaginative task into which Letford draws us, in this bold and unmissable book, is to see what it means to become reliant on essentials and to uncover the truth about what those essentials are.'
Kate Kellaway, The Guardian
'[From Our Own Fire] is a much more inventive and frightening book for all that it foreshadows. It could have been overdramatic, but in Letford's hands it is done with poignancy, humour, and beauty.'
Peter Raynard, Everybody's Reviewing
Praise for William Letford 'William Letford belongs in the grand - and humble - tradition of Robert Burns. He has heart, a feeling for ordinary working people and enough Scottish spark to start a fire.'
Kate Kellaway, The Observer 'While loving dirt is nothing new in poetry, Letford has his own unique take on it. Where he finds life blooming, he lives and lets live.'
The Poetry School
'very probably the next big thing in Scottish literature.'
Teddy Jamieson, Sunday Herald
'a distinct new voice making itself heard amidst the hubbub of Scottish literature.'
Alastair Mabbott, Sunday Herald William Letford is a young Scots poet who writes about daily life, work and love. His first book, Bevel (Carcanet), includes a great diatribe against cloth-eating larvae ('fucking moths / perforated my kilt between weddings')
Helen Simpson, Times Literary Supplement, Novemeber 30, 2012
'Bevel (Carcanet) has poems that observe the world of manual labour, a world the poet both belongs to and doesn't, in a manner reminiscent of the Californian factory-worker poet Fred Voss.'
Adam Newey, Guardian, 1st December 2012
'William Letford's Bevel (Carcanet,RRP £9.95) is (for a book of poetry anyhow!) really, really hot, and deserves to be so - a terrific first collection by a brand-new voice who is popular, urban, accessible, funny, moving, confident, Scottish, brilliant and absolutely his own man.'
Liz Lochhead 'A first collection by William Letford, Bevel (Carcanet, £9.95), has the poems people loved to listen to this year: funny, unpredictable, energetic, touching.'
Robyn Marsack, Scotsman Books of the Year 2012
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