I found Mick Imlah …

and I’m glad I did. I did my usual whilst out and about in the week and popped into Waterstones whilst walking passed and headed for the poetry section. I found it hidden away as usual but, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, I like most poetry lovers, take a perverse satisfaction having to look around for my passion.

The poetry section was quite small and The Lost Leader by Mick Imlah caught my eye so I picked it up and read a couple of poems. I realised quite quickly that Mick was Scottish – I haven’t delved into the Scots much – I spent a lot of years reading Philip Larkin; his poems, his letters and his essays on jazz; and until recently when I found Paul Muldoon in a similar dive into Waterstones had been stuck with Larkin, Wordsworth and my Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1950 – don’t get me wrong, I love all of the above, but I had got to the point where I needed more.

The Lost Leader is a fantastic book – I’ve been chilling with it on and off for most of the weekend. Imlah is a Scot who’s poems are so proudly Scottish in places and full of historic icons in others. He talks of the origins of his name and how un-Scottish it appears to be in Namely:

” […] but I’ve got this mongrel and seemingly-Islamic M.IMLAH,

the SMITH, J. of phonebooks from Fez to the Indian Ocean. […] “

and the empathy with which he writes of a band of 60 London Scottish rugby players heading off for war in 1914 is mesmerising, 75% being lost at Ypres: the last 2 lines of London Scottish reading:

” […] The others sometimes drank to ‘The Forty-Five’:

Neither a humorous nor an idle toast.”

I found out over the weekend that Mick died in 2009 aged 52 of Motor Neurone Disease and only published 2 full volumes of poetry in his lifetime; the first being Birthmarks in 1988 and the second The Lost Leader 20 years later in 2008. It seems such a shame not to have more but we can rejoice in what we do have.

Birthmarks from Amazon.

The Lost Leader from Amazon.

Mick Imlah on Wikipedia.

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