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Categories: 21st Century, Scottish
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (72 pages)
(Pub. Feb 2014)
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(Pub. Feb 2014)
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Already your long low tide draws me down
And your trompe l’oeil of sailing through sand
Runs my loss against those mussel banks
At the mouth between island and mainland.
At mere memory of your name I drown
And all that sails in me looks to the lifeboat
Whether Tillie, Annie, Isabella or Lilly –
And What-Ho! herself and the Menai Light.
From the saintly life of the headland I
Take spare comfort, grateful for small mercy,
The life of the head and the brain-cell
Flashing intermittent signal blindly.
Blind as in faith, on the sea of language,
The eighth sea with its own ports of call,
A mirror world in the world’s image.
Here I come again by Lafan to make landfall.
Andrew McNeillie’s sixth collection returns to the sea and its immensity as a metaphor for fate. It also revisits the British and Irish archipelago (‘For which read a figure for my heart. / For which too read a figure for time’s hurt’), following a north-western trajectory from the Aran Islands to the Hebrides. The natural world is seen here in both its beauty and its indifference to human beings (‘There’s many a thing more lasting than a person’). From a version of ‘The Seafarer’ to an elegiac play ‘for sounds and voices’ retelling the story of an English airman drowned off Aran in World War II, these poems speak of lives and deaths across the reaches of history.
Block: A Pulley Used in Running Rigging
In the Wake of ‘The Seafarer’
Words at Sea
Old Salt’s Prayer
Trouvé: Rigg Bay
Machars: War & Peace
By Ferry, Foot, and Fate
Lighthouse at Daybreak
Critique of Judgement
On Looking into an Old Photograph
An English Airman’s Death Recalled
‘The sea goes all the way round the island’
On the Rocks Road
Port Sheánia Revisited
On Not Sailing to St Kilda
A Return of the Native
Round About a Great Estate
At the Landfill Site
'There is some extraordinary virtuosity here - in one poem, he finds 33 half-rhymes for 'envy'.
John Greening, Country Life
Praise for Andrew McNeillie 'Striking a Match in a Storm illustrates that McNeillie is one of Wales's leading modern poets, and his work ranks alongside that of Gwyneth Lewis, Robert Minhinnick, Gillan Clarke and Dannie Abse. No anthology of Welsh poetry will ever be complete again without a comprehensive selection of McNeillie's poetry.'
PC Evans, Poetry Wales
'The wind blows hard and the sea crashes through his poems, brilliant and evocative of the littoral... [a] multifarious collection. Striking a Match in a Storm demonstrates an outstanding nature writer at the helm of these poems.'
Dan McCarthy, Irish Examiner
'A living poetic language flows, easy and slangy, the occasional poems which punctuate the later part of the collection are vitalized and real, among them elegies that remember mourning his father's death, and other deaths, which ring true, urged into being by poetry itself.'
Gillian Clarke 'The finest poems here are witty and elegiac, comforting and cajoling and speak of pervading human concerns with a rare lyrical ease and quiet authority. McNeillie's special gift is for providing the pleasure that comes from recognition: we can see ourselves in his poems. The book carries an epigram from Wordsworth, and there is a Wordsworthian sense of audience and connection in this collection.'
Times Literary Supplement
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