Shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection
Come to the Cabaret – on tour somewhat erratically in the North. Sample its impassioned ballads, phantasmata, and despairing satires. The cast includes a suicidal Pict from Galloway, Morayshire’s unsavoury Third Corbie, and the demented Edinburgh surgeon, Scrapie Powrie. Appearing now at the House of Fear, King Shit-Click’s Palace and Bede’s World.
In this new collection from W.N. Herbert, the verse veers from the Whitmanic to Dunbar-like flytings, and the language lurches from Scots to English through all half-way houses. The result is a big bad anxious trip through the Information Age with one of the most various of contemporary poets.
W.N. Herbert is a highly versatile poet who writes both in Scots and English. Sean O'Brien has called him 'outstanding…a poet whom nothing – including what he terms "the Anchises of the Scots Style Sheet" – will intimidate'. For Douglas Dunn, his was 'the best writing in Scots – thoughtful, studied, clever – I've seen in years'. Jamie McKendrick admired his 'vibrant' poetry, his 'ear for the sensuous music of Scots' and his 'ability to effect sudden shifts of scale that bring the human and the cosmic face to face'.
‘W.N. Herbert’s poetic prescription is kill or cure. Herbert specialises in big, spine-burstingly various and formally eclectic books, in both Scots and English, that are always in the end unified by the energy, wit and intellectual adventurousness of their author… several books in one by a writer who should by rights count as several poets in one’ – Patrick McGuinness, Poetry Review.
‘This antithesis of the slim volume bubbles and seethes with wit and polysyllabic adventurousness’ – Edwin Morgan, The Scotsman.
W.N. Herbert reads six poems
W.N. (Bill) Herbert lives in a converted lighthouse overlooking the River Tyne at North Shields. Pamela Robertson-Pearce him in December 2007 in his study at the very top of the house, the walls of which are criss-crossed with salvaged ship timbers. He reads six poems in this video taken from his collections Cabaret McGonagall (1996), The Laurelude (1998), The Big Bumper Book of Troy (2002) and Bad Shaman Blues (2006), all published by Bloodaxe: ‘Corbandie’, ‘The Black Wet’, ’To a Mousse’, ’Song of the Longboat Boys’, ‘Slow Animals Crossing’ and ‘Bad Shaman Blues’. This film is from the DVD-anthology In Person: 30 Poets, filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce & edited by Neil Astley (Bloodaxe Books, 2008).