No. 6 – ring-net by Garry MacKenzie


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In this little collection, Garry MacKenzie nets his poems before our eyes, and shoots his metaphors into the deep, with rare and miraculous-seeming precision. He is a moving metaphysician, a meditative net-maker. But his poems are firmly tethered too in the material reality of history, as several of his subtitles indicate. The poems may be read as oblique environmental commentary, regarding the decline of our fisheries. But primarily they are works of verbal art, of exciting virtuosity and striking imagery, as when a struck match lowered into the bowl of a pipe metamorphoses, startingly, into a diving gannet.

Hugh MacDiarmid, George Campbell Hay, and W. S. Graham all wrote great fishing and fisheries sea-poetry. Here MacKenzie joins their company, with a voice and vision all his own. He nods too at Angus Martin, who, in his own poems, and such studies as The Ring-Net Fishermen, has documented, invaluably, an era when the seas were lavish, as they are no more.

ring-net signals a new direction of travel for the author of the celebrated debut Ben Dorain – a conservation with a mountain, and does so with the same assured authority.

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