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Mr Mackenzie’s Manuscript

01/09/2007

If you’ve been following my and Rob A Mackenzie‘s posts about our manuscript swap, you’ll probably be waiting for the more detailed comments I promised on Rob’s poems*, so here they finally are.

There’s a lot of very good stuff in Rob’s MS, with a few really fine poems. Think of Rob A Mackenzie, and you’re likely to think of surreal, ironic, witty narrative poems. Many of the strongest and most distinctive pieces in the manuscript are just such. They are fresh and contemporary and their level of irony is just right: never arch, too knowing or clever-clever but playful, even though the material is serious.

These poems support Rob’s statement that his writing follows “the softer side of the New York School and … European surrealism”. Nonetheless, his voice also sounds distinctly Scottish to me. It’s not particularly a matter of vocabulary, as there’s almost no Scots in his MS**. Nor is it necessarily a matter of geographical or cultural references. The Scottish flavour comes, I think, from the way Rob deploys his wit and irony, mixed often with genuine passion and commitment. I’d go so far as to say that it feels quite Glaswegian, a subtle reflection of the best parts of that city’s distinctive character and humour mingled with the European and transatlantic influences.

Here we have that good old Scottish internationalism again, which also puts me in mind of Edwin Morgan, whom Rob has cited. I can hear echoes of Morgan’s voice in the mixture of international influence, Glasgow exuberance and formal variety but Rob’s voice is still very much his own.

All in all, Rob’s work is a highly entertaining, stimulating read. He has decided to keep writing for a few more months before sending an MS out. To judge by the present selection, he’s going from strength to strength, so I’m sure those few months will bring some excellent poems into being. I’m looking forward eagerly to putting his first collection on my bookshelf (and, of course, to taking it down). Meanwhile, if you haven’t already bought a copy of The Clown of Natural Sorrow, what are you waiting for?

*You can read his comment on my MS here.

**The confectionary and culinary terms “soor plooms” and “bridie” are the only instances I can think of.

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