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Poetry collection review: David Linklater – Scenes from a God Movie

Glasgow-based David Linklater has published a third poetry collection, his second with homegrown indie press Speculative Books. A graduate of the University of Glasgow’s MLitt Creative Writing programme, Linklater was shortlisted for the 2020 Edwin Morgan Award, and in 2015 was recipient of a Dewar Arts Award for poetry.

Scenes from a God Movie is a thoughtful, seemingly delicate array of poems, but once you delve deeper there’s flesh on the bones. Evocative, with a deft, Millennial-ish touch of irony, the collection spans topics such as the pull of the heart between city and countryside, misremembered dreams, environmental panic, and the bright lull of an Orcadian ferry trip.

The collection begins with ‘For Your Information’, an exploration of the body as dissection subject and of half-forgotten childhood events. There’s a surgeon-like dismembering of the past, with parts and memories set out for inspection: ‘my appendix removed / because it was stuffed like a goose / my heart laid flat on the ironing board / because that’s just what happens sometimes.

Taken as a whole, the poems are finely attuned to the relationship between nature and the body: the workings of our inner lives, mind and nerves and organs, and how they’re presented to the world. We see this again in ‘A Heap of Stories’, which has a still, fathomless feel: a pool is a ‘stomach of green histories’ and the hillside painted ‘orange, vein-blue / a breath of wind milking branches / throwing leaves, dancing grasses.

‘The Bee Lady’ is a golden gem of a poem. The quiet, devotional hum of the hive is beautifully recreated, with the beekeeper’s covered head ‘floating in a mesh of air’. As the hive’s acolytes are gently roused and smoked out, we see plumes unfurl into the ‘calligraphy of the ashen ceiling’.

‘Found These Synchronicities’ slams into view with an impression of white-painted bulk: HM Hamnavoe as a vast metal beast, barrelling across the sea with passengers in its guts like swallowed souls. There’s intensity here too, as the ‘pilgrim’ tourists at Orkney’s Ring of Brodgar ‘circle with kisses’. Later, in the dark belly of the boat, a neat bed is unmade and there are ‘archaic shapes / with lips like a roof to keep the fire in’.

Elsewhere, in ‘Dearest Multitudes’, we’re forced to reflect on our own sickness. The human race is ruinous and selfish, with decay and infection our inevitable reward. We’re ‘sugar on a rotten tooth’, and the world is reduced to a scrambling, panicking mass: ‘Earth with her hair/tangled in an illness, faculties dislocated.’ For obvious reasons, it hits close to the bone.

Scenes from a God Movie is an accomplished collection, with a smoothing of the rough edges you’d expect from a poet who’s developing their finesse. There’s still enough of a rawness to draw you in and hold you there, though. And if we’re being truthful, I don’t ever want anything else from poetry.

Scenes from a God Movie is out now, published by Speculative Books

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