Flipstones- Jim Mackintosh

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I've always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with poetry.  At high school, I was actually pretty decent at English but when it came time to study poetry I would keep my head down and hope that I wasn't called on for my interpretation.  I think initially my major beef with poetry was that it felt like you had to be Alan Turing and in possession of the enigma machine to even begin to decipher what was being said.  Also, the teachers seemed to be so prescriptive when it came to the poet's intention.  I'd be all like, 'Well, I really enjoy the imagery and I like poems about daffodils', before being ridiculed and told that the poem is, in fact, about the Russian revolution.  I stole that last bit from the comedian Sean Hughes, but it sums up how I feel.

Things improved slightly when I got a new English teacher, Mrs Thomas, and I actually enjoyed reading Tennyson's 'Lady of Shallot' and Phillip Larkin's, 'A Study of Reading Habits' really resonated with me.  It was great.  A short, funny underdog story... with swearing.  The perfect poem for a grumpy, A short, funny underdog story... with swearing.  The perfect poem for a grumpy, literate teenager.literate teenager.

Since leaving school my consumption of poetry has been pretty sporadic.  I tried to get into Rimbaud after listen to Dylan's blood on the tracks and I read the bawdy 'A Season in Hell/The Drunken Boat' (my edition was pretty cool, it had the original French running parallel to the translation).  I also really dug the hard-boiled, sweary poetry of Bukowski, although it wasn't too dissimilar to his prose, and the amazing Leonard Cohen's beautiful, romantic and slender 'Book of Longing'.  

In the last few year's I have seen local poet Jim Mackintosh give readings at both the CPK Platform Festival and also a Blend poetry evening.  I had also been intrigued by Jim's multi-media 'Flipstones' exhibition at the Concert Hall Cup for illustrative purposes onlyand that led me to pick up the collection of the same name.  It's a great collection that compiles pieces from previous collections but also includes a sizeable amount of brand new material.

For someone who considers himself a non-football fan, I find myself strangely drawn to the poems from Jim's St. Johnstone FC Residency.  'Turnstiles' is particularly evocative of a time and place from my childhood, and brings happy memories of my Saturdays at Muirton Park.  For Jim, the turnstiles seem to serve as an almost Proustian device:

'A time machine whirring into action, releasing me,

into a new world, the land of my future dreams.'

Elsewhere the poem 'Calvie', detailing the duplicitous eviction of 90 people from their homes, brings the times of the highland clearances to sombre life.  An uncertain future ahead of them, the displaced families seek refuge in the  I love how a lot of the poems in 'Flipstones' look at things with a view askew, coming at familiar topics from a different angle and giving you a fresh perspective. Croick Kirk, 'evicted for a distant Master's coin'.

In 'Forbidden Rainbows', ignorance is declared the cause of fear, beautifully summing up the madness of prejudice and ending on a hopeful note where 'Beyond Forbidden's walls-hearts tethered no more.'  'The Bicycle', describes an unclaimed bicycle in the wake of the 2015 Paris terrorist attack.   I love how a lot of the poems in 'Flipstones' look at things with a view askew, coming at familiar topics from a different angle and giving a fresh perspective.  I also like the poetry's playfulness, like how in one piece, 'Old is Tomorrow', Jim incorporates lines from 'My School and Schoolmasters' into the narrative.  This gives an effect akin to sampling in modern music, allowing Jim to both pay tribute to fellow Scot Hugh Miller and 'to place fresh words on the shelf next to his'.

My girlfriend has often accused me of being obsessed with Donald Trump.  To be fair she has a point.  He's obviously a horrendous person and President, but I have to admit I find his antics endlessly fascinating.  As a character he has a ring of science fiction about him.  Watching him on the news is like living in a Philip K. Dick book.  So when it came to reading the new poems in 'Flipstones' I obviously found myself drawn to 'The Donald' as it describes

'the creation of destruction

born from his unpicked words'

My pick of the new poems though is 'What If?'  It's a brief but beguiling ode to romantics that deals in possibilities and wears its heart on its sleeve.  I'm also drawn to 'Bind' with its gentle encouragement to live in the now.  It's a lovely point to end the collection and this review:

'Time will hurry on but for a moment step off

to one side, let it pass.  Look for the alone.'


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