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This review is taken from PN Review 109, Volume 22 Number 5, May - June 1996.


DAVID KINLOCH's remarkable first collection identifies him with the younger generation of Scottish poets whose work makes an energetic response to the fact that, in Robert Crawford's words, 'in Scotland we live across and between languages'. Poets such as Kathleen Jamie, W.N. Herbert and Crawford himself combine and juxtapose English and Scots - synthetic and otherwise - in ways that not only enact language and poetry as desire and play but are also symptomatic of a deeper pondering of place and displacement. The complex cross-cultural and interlingual mapping that often results may be read partly as a metaphor for the fact that - in Scottish eyes - the current 'official' forms of Scotland and its culture do not adequately express the soul of its people. Language and nation are at the forefront of Paris-Forfar's concerns. The opening poem pictures the Reverend Robert Walker skating on Duddingston Loch and notes how 'The water tensed at his instruction': and the book's closing prose poem says of its subject that 'he feels for the first time in centuries the pain of his land strike up through his language like an absent flower'. The coming-to-consciousness this describes is given an added poignancy and urgency by Kinloch's tender but unsentimental focus on gay life and gay love in the age of AIDS. Paris-Forfar is dominated by an extended sequence of poems which accumulate into a complex elegy for a gay man who has recently died from the disease. 'Dustie-Fute' takes up over two-thirds of ...

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