Crowlin Press, 2007 - £5.00

A sketch of a peaceful loch graces the cover of Alan MacGillivray’s second collection, but the contents are anything but calm waters. It’s a generous pamphlet at 40 pages, with poems I’ll divide into three groupings.


First, a fair number were political in the best sense of the word, poems with edge rather than design and which made connections between past and present.


Secondly, not quite in complete contrast, there’s a brilliant five poem sequence, ‘the opinions and emissions of fnc gull, larus argentatus’ (or ‘effin seagull’), a monologue by an outspoken über-Scottish seabird with a strong grounding in the liberal arts who loiters on windowsills definitely with intent. One might say he had a bit of a chip on his shoulder except fcn gull makes short work of any chips in the vicinity:


aye its me sunshine here at yir windae

tap tappin who did yi think it wis

poes fukin raven nevermore lift yir heid


The whole sequence is packed with witty literary references, reads wonderfully and ends on the promise that “when aw seems lost/ an totally fukd” fnc gull will return. Meantime, no doubt he has his own opinions on Scotia’s Hero, “Jamy Stewart, saxt and first by richt”, St Andrew’s Day and Iraq (some of the historical/political topics covered by MacGillivray later on in the collection). I enjoyed all of these intelligent and biting poems but especially the ghazal, ‘Hassan Bids Farewell to His Love’.


The third set of poems focussed on more general themes, and nothing wrong with that. I particularly liked in ‘Writing’ that


          Writing is:

          the sex life of stationery


but when I go back to this book it will be to revisit the embattled streets and smashed towers of Hassan’s Baghdad, or to savour again the trenchant wisdom of fnc gull.


Eleanor Livingstone


Available from the author’s website