A poet renowned for the clarity of her style, the originality of her subject matter, and for her erudite and spiky online presence, Sheenagh Pugh is a poet at the height of her career. This book is a companion to her popular earlier Selected Poems, originally published in 1990 and now a GCSE set text.
This volume collects a wide selection of the later poems of Sheenagh Pugh, from five individual collections: Sing for the Taxman (1993), Id’s Hospit (1997), Stonelight (1999), The Beautiful Lie (2002), and The Movement of Bodies (2005). A sample of titles will tempt the reader to find out about ‘The Last Wolf in Scotland’, ‘The Tormented Censor’, why ‘Captain Roberts Goes Looting’, who the ‘Best Jesus in Show’ is, and why we are ‘Envying Owen Beattie’. Themes are often subverted, truisms reversed, clichés overthrown. Her technique is highly skilled, but unobtrusive, and therefore, in the best sense, invisible. She frequently uses traditional metre and cleverly deploys rhyme and half-rhyme. The tone is always un-strident, apt and subtly persuasive.
This collection highlights the ambitious sequences that have featured in the last decade of the poet’s work. A day mountain climbing inspires the three-part pastoral ‘Climbing Hermaness’ which opens the book, we also have ‘Five Voices’ which, characteristically, dramatises an otherwise curious and obscure historical anecdote about the tragic execution of Lieutenant Hans Hermann von Kattte in 1730. ‘Voices in Mousa Broch’ is an atmospheric four-part sequence about the Shetland Isles. ‘The Arctic Chart’ describes the icy landscapes of the North and the aftermath of the often tragic expeditions to explore the polar region is embodied in the moving ‘Lady Franklin’s Man’ series, where the eponymous heroine is seen searching for many years for her lost explorer spouse. The final sequence, ‘The Curious Drawer’ is altogether different and might be called a series of erotic meditations on the miniature Tudor portraits of Nicholas Hilliard.