Andrew Philip - The North End of the Possible (4 stars)

Andrew Philip - The North End of the Possible

Collection of poems of love, place and politics highlights Philip’s considerable formal talents

(Salt)

Salt cements its reputation for fresh contemporary poetry with this much-anticipated second full collection from acclaimed Scottish poet Andrew Philip. Humour and invention are mainstays of Philip’s work, and in both English and Scots, his wit leads us gently into a nuanced exploration of existence, remoteness and belonging.

The book starts and ends with further exploits of MacAdam: not the Ayr-born inventor of modern road surfacing, rather the inscrutable, ludic character who haunted Philip’s first collection The Ambulance Box. Our enigmatic hero recycles moons and constructs a garden shed accelerator to discover ‘the fundamental particle of night’. Later, ‘clean out of Red Bull’, he’s wading into nocturnal surf, questioning hope in a Kafkaesque jail, and enduring an interrogation of surreal non-sequiturs.

The central section highlights Philip’s considerable formal talents with poems of love, place and politics, especially in his delicate exploration of a decade-long marriage, ‘10x10’. Truly European – referencing Gaelic, German and Swedish - Philip also ranks among the best current Scots poets: his brilliantly funny, Burns-pastiche excoriation of bad Edinburgh buskers is worth the cover price alone.

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