Passing Through – review of Tom Leonard's poetry and prose

bellacaledonia.org.uk
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fairly difficult
& what there is of poetry Review of passing through by Tom Leonard The recent announcement of a new collection of work by Tom Leonard was met with considerable excitement and anticipation. Perh…
& what there is of poetry

Review of passing through by Tom Leonard

The recent announcement of a new collection of work by Tom Leonard was met with considerable excitement and anticipation. Perhaps some, possibly including myself, were initially hesitant. Posthumous publications can be problematic in a number of ways; not least in their gathering of material a writer, for reasons that often become apparent, might not have wanted to enter the public domain. The care and precision that has been put into the publication of this volume elides any such worries. Much of the work has previously appeared elsewhere (on his web journal at tomleonard.co.uk, for example, and in various magazines and journals) and writing that reaches the reader for the first time has been carefully selected from his personal archive. Working alongside Leonard's family, and with the support of his friend and comrade James Kelman, The Common Breath have brought together a hefty book of poetry and prose that prioritises Leonard's aesthetic, the importance of the visual and materiality of the text, and that illuminates his thinking throughout his creative lifetime: from the language of his most well-known Six Glasgow Poems through to his assessments of Scottishness, nationalism and the political arena.

At the heart of the works within, though, is his concern for the primacy of radical literary art – and most specifically the mode of poetry, evident in the poems themselves and in his typically polemical essays on the art form. At the beginning, 'Poetry Please!' takes its title from the genteel Radio 4 programme, where poetry is little more than a middle-class cultural comfort. In Leonard's own words, those

for whom poetry is

a warm cup of cocoa

held to their bosoms

& who go hmmm…. hmmmm….

at public readings[.]

A similar crowd, undoubtedly averse to writers like Leonard, bears itself a couple of poems later in 'at a poetry reading':

alone with the potted plants

and the polite…
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