Northwords Now Issue 36

The FREE literary magazine of the North

Flipstones – New and Selected Poems & The Language of Lighthouses

A Review by Kenny Taylor

Flipstones – New and Selected Poems
by Jim Mackintosh (Tippermuir) 2018

The Language of Lighthouses
by Alison Seller 2018

Over the past four years, the Hugh Miller Writing competition has become an intriguing part of the Scottish literary scene. As befits the 19th century polymath honoured in the name, this interest stems in part from the ways that entries have drawn on science to create art in poetry and prose.
Two of the prize winners from the first High Miller competitions have published collections in the last few months. Their winning poems are included, but beyond those, the books are very different in both scope and tone.

Jim Mackintosh’s Flipstones is a substantial volume of almost 170 pages, which draws on selections from the writer’s five previous collections and adds scores of new poems. Jim has the unusual distinction of being one of Britain’s few poets-in-residence for a professional football club: St. Johnstone, in his home city of Perth. Several poems are drawn from his passion for the game. There’s both humour and resignation in these, drawn from decades of manning the terraces:

The history of scunnered includes all of us
in our shades of team colours, joy, misery
& everything in between

The selection ranges far beyond the stadium, including through wider Perthshire: “You try to understand it and what happens?/It changes colour, re-shapes itself” and in breadth of language. This is a poet who relishes the power of guid Scots in some of the selections, fairly coaxing the reader to speak the words aloud, as in “sat an suppit the slae-berry brose.” The result is a book whose poems can be savoured for their fresh insights into everyday experience.

Alison Seller’s slim, hand-stitched volume contains just a few poems, all rooted in her home village of Cromarty. But watching from that doorstep, she can cast her gaze much wider, across ‘This Northern land/caught between Atlantic breeze/and Norwegian ice/intersecting heaven and earth.”

The collection concludes with ‘Deep Absence’ (a wonderful title) which links deep time and the death of Hugh Miller’s daughter. A small nugget, fresh from the Cromarty shore.