Northwords Now Issue 40

The FREE literary magazine of the North

Facing the Persians - Ian A. Olson

Tellforth Publishing ISBN 978-0-9956419-0-7

A Review by Anne MacLeod

Dr Ian Olson, who describes himself as long-retired, worked in medicine and education with a particular interest in handicap in children.  His parallel career was in Scottish traditional culture, especially balladry and history.  From the mid-eighties until the year 2000, he edited the Aberdeen University Review, and worked successfully to persuade Aberdeen University to create a Chair of Scottish Ethnology.
    
With such a sweeping, generous, background, it is no surprise that the poems are as diverse and as broad-based as the man.  He is fascinated by Greek Mythology, by Celtic and Gaelic literature, by the Highland history and landscape.  He is unafraid to write for children, and humour plays an important role in Facing the Persians, a collection which feels as if it has been many years in the building, each poem like a good malt – well-made, maturing under Highland skies. He is a man in sympathy with the landscape. In Strathconon [see page 23 of this issue. Ed.], he laments:  ‘When you took the autumn to London/And left me to burrow into winter/I said they could pack up Strathconon/Box up the brick and larch/Return the swans on Achonachie’…
    
In Just for you,  he smiles Just for you/I’ll make the sun to rise/And the birds to sing….Just for you/I’ll open butterflies/Upon the flowers. ..   but warns ‘Margaret, our forebear/Was a last witch/Tried in Scotland..    .. So even now/We’ll keep these gifts/A secret’.

But he’s not afraid, either, to laugh..  as in Poetry Reading.. ‘Yes, My Titanic poem/at the poetry reading/Went down very well’.

As an editor, Ian Olson encouraged many young poets. His own work, distilled in this collection, deserves every respect.