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This review is taken from PN Review 174, Volume 33 Number 4, March - April 2007.

WRITTEN IN LEMON JUICE DAVID SCOTT, Piecing Together (Bloodaxe) £7.95

Many poets are natural priests, especially the godless ones. At worst they develop into gurus or shamans; at best they preach their cause as teachers, and practise what they teach. Their pose arises from an artificial conception that poetry is a hieratic art. But the tradition of the poet as an actual priest, doing the parish rounds and minding his flock, is far thornier and much more remarkable. The church is a sharp vocation. Poetry and the priesthood are callings which sit all too shakily on the scales of responsibility and guilt. Does one finally outweigh the other, as with Gerard Manley Hopkins? Do they circle each other like opposing magnets, as with R.S. Thomas? Or are they matched in weight, informing and balancing each other, as in the poetry of George Herbert?

David Scott manages a quite brilliant balance between the two, and his poetry and life are a consilience of those vocations. Scott is Rector of St Lawrence and St Swithun in Winchester, and Warden of the Diocesan School of Spirituality. Previously he had served for eleven years as a parish priest in North Cumbria, smack on the margins and saltmarshes of Solway and Scotland, a zone of stripped fells and bare beauty, where the chief companion is the weather. While he was there he not only ministered with fidelity to his parishioners, but wrote his first books of poetry. Scott was one of the leading spirits of the group called the New Lakes Poets ...


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