Saturday, 13 June 2009

Is Dumfries going to the dogs..?

And from a dead poet you've probably all heard of (TS Eliot) to a living one that's much newer in poetry town (JoAnne McKay). McKay has a pamphlet just about to come out called 'The Fat Plant' and it looks like this:



Copies are available from the author, price £5 – email her at titusmckay@aol.com if you want to buy.

If you don't think you recognise the name JoAnne McKay you may have seen her commenting round these parts lately under the name Titus (accompanied by a lovely photo of a dog - border terrier in fact). I'm not sure why JoAnne chooses to blog as a dog (rather than as her good self) but you know, we're not judgemental at this blog...and we like dogs on the whole (especially border terriers) so we welcomed her (furry face and all). Her blog is here and there are quite a lot of sample poems posted from 'The Fat Plant' so you can read a couple before you think about buying the wee book.

Now you're all clever people who can make up your own minds about poetry to an extent...but for what it's worth here is what I think of her poetry so far...(and please remember I make no claims to be a poetry expert...perish the thought).

For a start I think she has variety...

...yes, in fact she has so much variety she has it in big, wide, dig-your-garden-up-in-minutes-missus spades. Her writing shows variety in its style, its atmospheres and its content and whilst there are only sixteen poems in 'The Fat Plant' it feels like a much bigger book. McKay may not know it yet but she is ambitious with her writing (and I don't mean she wants to be Head Sonnetwasher at the Poetry Society...I mean ambitious about what she's doing with the writing itself). I very much admire that in a writer (probably because I feel a bit that way – I want to write EVERYTHING!) and I don't think poet Hugh McMillan is far wrong in his charming introduction to this book when he says she will “prove herself to be a writer of importance”. McKay is a near neighbour of McMillan's in the Dumfries area so it seems Dumfries and Galloway is quite the hotbed of exciting writing these days (must be the Burns in the burns...).

Also I think she has something new to say...

...well, how many poets have been police officers for a start (McKay was for eleven years)? How many grew up around the family slaughterhouse (as she did in Essex)? Plus she seems to be one of those people who knows lots about all sorts...encyclopaedic knowledge I believe they call it (never suffered from it myself, sadly). Of course it isn't her rich and unusual experiences and broad knowledge that make the poems interesting but I think it certainly helps to have some different, gripping and wideranging subject matter to get to work on (which she most definitely does). Partly because of some of this background the poems are sometimes harsh (but without being cruel) and they can be visceral too (but without being shock-happy). I'm pleased to report though that there is also a lot of thought throughout this little collection and it has its share of tender moments and, thank the lord, it has humour as well (and I mean proper humour not crappy poet humour that only other poets can understand). She writes about faith, about history and, most of all perhaps in this selection, about family (from every angle). Probably my favourite poem in 'The Fat Plant' is 'Mourning' (about the funeral of her father, the chief slaughterer) and particularly its section about the 'floral tributes'. I could quote from it but it's the whole poem you need to read really. I like funeral poems in general (death, can't get enough of it...) but this is my new best-friend funeral poem for sure.

Well, that should do to get you started. Go visit her, buy her wares, take her dog for a walk...

x

42 comments:

shug said...

Good stuff Rachel. I should point out that Dumfries shouldn't get the credit for this flourishing of poetical talent, but rather the People's Republic of Penpont.

I think JoAnne is an excellent writer, too.

Rachel Fox said...

I didn't want to pinpoint your mutual location too precisely. Think of the paparazzi, the crowds of poetry-hungry fans...although thinking about it it could be fun...Penpont - poetry village! Contact the tourist office this minute. Erect signs. Open tearooms.
x

deemikay said...

Just to set the record straight... Burns was an Ayrshire lad( like me!) not dumfrisian.

And thank you for elucidating the canine Titus! I shall investigate. :)

Rachel Fox said...

Excuse me young man but I know my Burns history! He may have started in Ayrshire but he finished in and around Dumfries (I did a full tour a couple of years ago...dragged the whole family round both areas). Plus RB was buried in Dumfries...hence his body became part of that area (if you like) hence my wild suggestion that he might be affecting the current residents.

Now back to JoAnne...

x

Titus said...

Who wonders whether she should be posting her thanks here? But thanks for a generous and interesting review, but most of all for the attention you've given to what I have written.

Rachel Fox said...

Yes whether to show up at your own wake, as it were...

...but here you are. And you're welcome.
x

deemikay said...

[I'll whisper this... so do I! But nobody calls Byron a Greek poet cause he died in Greece... ;0) ]

Now yes, back to Titus!

Rachel Fox said...

Ah it's a pedantry competition...I never said RB was from Dumfries...I just said he was in the water.
No more!
x

deemikay said...

Apologies. :)

Rachel Fox said...

Accepted.
x

shug said...

The Greeks will tell you Byron was a Greek poet

shug said...

The Greeks will tell you Byron was a Greek poet

Rachel Fox said...

I'm so sorry JoAnne...it seems this Burns thing will run and run...
and run and run.
Oh dear.
x

deemikay said...

Rachel - thank you... didn't want to take it too far! (Though I think I did.. :os )

shug - they will indeed. But they're wrong, no?

Titus said...

Hey, this is just like my life.
I am the Queen of diversion. But why did Shug have to tell us twice?
Is it a Greek Chorus? Or Echo?

Rachel Fox said...

Technical hitchery?
x

hope said...

He wanted to make sure it hit this side of the pond. :)

Thanks for the heads up Rachel...I went over to chat with Titus. We dog people must stick together. :)

The Weaver of Grass said...

Anyone who has associations with a Border Terrier gets my approval (and Tess's too-woof, woof)

Rachel Fox said...

I fear we're in danger of barking mad dog-lover accusations...

x

Liz said...

Nice one, Rachel and Titus...will mosey over there to have a read.

(P.S. confessing to the barking-mad dog-lover bit too)

: )

shug said...

Byron's dog was Greek, though it thought it was cosmopolitan

Dominic Rivron said...

I don't know of any other poets who have been policemen, unless you count fictional ones - doesn't Lord Peter Whimsey pen a sonnet or two?

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, Dominic, I think she has a first there (that I know of). It brings a whole new attitude too I think...a kind of unsaid 'listen to this or you're nicked' approach which I like...oddly.
x

Fiendish said...

Nice review. I ambled over there to have a read and it was certainly worth it.

Also, hello! Haven't been in these parts in a while.

Rachel Fox said...

Fiendish!
Have you been doing exams? Have you finished?
Lovely to hear from you.
x

deemikay said...

I've been having a think about poets with non-poetic jobs...

Should we decide to automatically distrust ones who are teachers/academics? I think they'll have to sell themselves to us a bit more forcefully. :)

This is in KingDavidLand, I should add.

Rachel Fox said...

I know what you mean, D,...but I think there is a distinction between teachers in schools and academics in universities so I wouldn't be lumping them together at all.

As for academics (and ones specifically teaching literature...especially those who have worked in academia their whole careers)...can they be interesting poets? Surely they can...but examples please (anyone). And are some readers (maybe you, D,...maybe me...people outside academia) are they/we unfairly prejudiced against academic writers? Every poet has to support themselves some way or another after all...

Katy Evans Bush mentioned this issue on her Baroque blog (in a way) back around the Walcott/Padel hoo-ha. Talking about Walcott and the is it/isn't it a scandal she referred to "poetry belonging so largely to the academy these days" (a post back on 15th May). I thought it was interesting that a writer like KEB (who seems very literary, very...academic to the casual not-very-academic observer) would say something like that.

I'm waffling a bit now. Even for me.

x

deemikay said...

Good question... am I prejudiced against them? I don't think so... I hope not. (Because then I'm prejudiced against Nitoo... eek! She'd virtually hit me.) Plenty of interesting poets throughout the centuries have only ever worked in universities and never had a "proper" job. And I'd rather be an academic than work in a call centre. (yes, yes... call centres aren't as bad as the stereotype, yaddah yaddah... I can hear them now.)

As for the difference between teachers and academics... yes, there is one. But English teachers have gone through academia and therefore speak academia-ese. My friend Weasel goes on about "Dickens as Hand Fetishist" all the time and speaks fluent theory (as does Nitoo). But I was meaning that I *hope* there's more to a poet's poem than the theory they may have been thinking of when they wrote it.

Or something. :os

Rachel Fox said...

And I thought I was rambling...

Maybe we should leave this and come back to it another time...
x

deemikay said...

Did I ramble there?

Must be Thunder Sunday Storms affecting my head. :)

Rachel Fox said...

You see what you need is the structure of a proper academic environment.

Sorry...I was invaded by my mother's brain for a minute there (happens all the time...).

Are we now wasting police time?


x

Titus said...

JoAnne McKay would like to express her gratitude to Rachel Fox for picking up, reading and reviewing an unknown. That takes time and generosity of spirit.

Thank you!

Rachel Fox said...

I don't think you're any more unknown than me!
And anyway poetry is nothing to do with names...it's poems, right?
But you're welcome.
x

The Solitary Walker said...

This is a most entertaining correspondence!

Of course, you're right, RF. Wallace Stevens - wasn't he in insurance? And Pessoa too (or something like that - too lazy to check)? And Armitage a social worker? Eliot a banker?

I.A. Richards and F.R.Leavis taught it. But Dylan Thomas did it. And Bob Dylan does it. Trouble unfortunately is - the accompanying booze and drug problems. Oh, well, p'raps you don't get something for nothing.

Rachel Fox said...

Armitage was a probation officer, SW, but I think you're right on the rest (as for Pessoa - I've no knowledge about him whatsoever..did he play for Man U?)
x

deemikay said...

William Blake was an engraver.

Ivor Gurney a composer.

Chaucer was a Clerk of Works (amongst other things).

And George Mackay Brown was a layabout who just happened to be quite good at writing. :)

There should be some central database of poets' jobs.

Rachel Fox said...

Off you go then...
x

The Solitary Walker said...

Pessoa was the greatest Portuguese poet ever (check back in my blog!) Though I don't know any others. And it sounds as if he should have been a gynaecologist, I know.

Sorlil said...

how interesting, I was beginning to wonder if JoAnne was from that lovely southerly region!

Rachel Fox said...

Somewhere on her blog there's a recorded poem done in full cor-blimeyness...
x

Titus said...

No precedent here I'm afraid.
Henry Fielding, whilst busy creating the modern novel and founding the Bow Street Runners, was also a dramatist and versifier.

"When I'm not thanked at all, I'm thanked enough;
I've done my duty, and I've done no more."
(from Tom Thumb the Great, 1730)

Rachel Fox said...

See, what did I say? Encyclopaedic, I tell you...
x