Posted by Grace Note Publications on April 18, 2016
Fugitives Donald Campbell. Grace Note Publications REVIEW BY CHARLIE GRACIE
Fugitives is the first collection of Donald Campbell's poems for many years and is an eclectic mix. The range of subject matter is broad and impressive, from the streets of Edinburgh to his relationships with other writers to the voices of Native American and Russian poets. The book is divided into three main sections: New Poems, Uncollected Poems and Translations and many of the pieces speak to Campbell's concern for and admiration of the human beings he writes about: in 'Jenny Clow', for a young Edinburgh woman lifted and laid by an earlier bard.
The lass that kissed the poet's brow
Lies cold and lifeless in the grave.
There are no songs for Jenny Clow.
The first section on Edinburgh has high and low points, but there is very much to like indeed in the group of poems about and to other poets. In particular, 'Clear Fire', a poem to Hugh McDiarmid on his eightieth birthday, is brimming with meaning and poetic punch.
Licht. There has aye to be licht
but at the hinner end
there has aye tae be fire tae create it.
There are some limitations to this collection, as you might imagine in such a mix. Campbell is well known for his poems in Scots, and these shine brighter more consistently than those in English.
In his 'Note on influences, tastes and methods' at the start of the book, he asserts 'I believe that the use of a set form expands and enhances the meaning of a poem.' This is often true, but, while I admired and enjoyed the set format poems (most bubble with energy when read aloud, and I would recommend you do this), some of them suffer the very limitations that are. often found in too structured a poem. In addition, he really does tap into something very strong when he loosens the strings.
My" favourite section is the final one: Translations. Like the others before them, the poems here share a sense of control and beauty.Two stand out, and they sum up for me the strength of Donald Campbell's poetry. 'Aw, you!' (from the Russian of Vladimir Mayakovsky) is a tight drum of a poem, beating out hard.
Ye looked straucht
intil the ee
o my hurricane saw
what nane ither
had seen afore...
And 'The Ways of Wonder '(after the Gaelic poem 'Sligh Nan Seann Seun' of Donald Campbell), the penultimate poem in the collection (I'd have readily left the final one out in its favour), resounds with passion. It has the elements of set structure that Donald Campbell pushes in his early remarks, and it is a beautiful example.
No wonder this fertile land lies fallow.
No wonder the hills are haunted with hunger.
No wonder our songs are soaked with sorrow.
No wonder our words are wasted with anger!
Donald Campbell's words are, of course, not wasted.
Charlie Gracie’s poetry and fiction have featured in a range of literary publications. His poetry collection, Good Morning, was published by diehard in 2011.
Review in NORTHWORD NOW