Poetry Book Society Recommendation
For nearly three hundred years Scotland and England were the Laurel and Hardy of nations. For nearly two hundred years The Prelude was a poem by Wordsworth. Something had to give. As Britain begins to resemble a cut-up by William Burroughs, and the heritage of Robert Burns is flushed down a lavvie in Leith, one verse-monger steps forward to do battle with (or possibly for) cultural chaos.
Bill Herbert’s Laurelude is in three sections: The Laurelude is a blank verse myth about Ulverston’s Idiot Boy, Stan Laurel. Othermoor depicts a cubist version of the North where the Wild Boy himself, the late Bill Burroughs, rewrites the rules. And The Madmen of Elgin squashes both Lost Boys and Solitary Reapers into Middle Scots verse forms for a pre-millennial song-and-dance.
Like Oliver Hardy this volume refuses to be slim: it bursts all borders, literary and political, creating a zone where the Hollywood musical meets the Jolly Beggars, where lament bumps into love lyric, where the dictionaries go to die.
‘A weird mix of Desperate Dan, MacDiarmid and Dostoyevsky…a rare and fantastic voice’ – Fiachra Gibbons, Guardian.
‘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).