Olivier Assayas's film on the aftermath of May 1968 is infantile ultra-leftism
JOE GLENTON explains his need to respond to a world that is unsustainably divided
"There are two ways in which place is known and cherished," Seamus Heaney has written. "One is lived, illiterate and unconscious, the other learned, literate and conscious.
"Too much of the first can produce chauvinism. Too much of the second and you get nostalgia. As the xenophobes and racists crawl out from under their stones waving their violent little flags, it is important that ideas about 'place' do not become the property of the fantasists and nationalists."
No poet in our time has worked harder to insist on the real and specific values of landscape and memory than Seamus Heaney. Sometimes sounding like early MacNeice, sometimes like late Yeats, his new collection Human Chain (Faber, £12.99) is arguably his strongest work since The Spirit Level.
There are half-a-dozen poems here which will quickly become favourites among Heaney's many readers, like The Baler, The Door Was Open And The House Was Dark, A Kite For Aibhin and the wonderful In The Attic, in which the 70-year-old poet remembers the thrill of reading Treasure Island as a boy.
"A birch tree planted twenty years ago/Comes between the Irish Sea and me/At the attic skylight, a man marooned/In his own loft, a boy/Shipshaped in the crow's nest of a life,/Airbrushed to and fro, wind-drunk, braced/By all that's thrumming up from keel to masthead,/Rubbing his eyes to believe them and this most/Buoyant, billowy, topgallant birch."
Jean Atkin writes about the landscapes of Dumfries and Galloway, where she farms. The Treeless Region (Ravenglass £4.99) is an unsentimental celebration of farm work - milking, lambing, coppicing and harvesting.
She writes a lot about the weather ("Thirty-six hours of rain/has made roads becks... each gateway leaks a stream"). And she is especially good on the importance of placenames - "I carted stanes at Skeoch./I worked the lambing at Killyleoch./I laid the cobbles at Drumburlie./I paid for the dyke at Lochanlee."
Andrew Forster's second collection, Territory (Flambard, £7.50) is also set in the south-west of Scotland, specifically the former mining villages of Leadhills where he used to live. Forster writes at times with a naturalist's eye - the thin February sunlight "is like a stoat/currying cross the road." Winter is "the slow beat of a snowy owl ahead of us."
He writes about a lived, worked and working landscape ("It is hard to see/here the village ends and the museum begins"), resentful of those who "slip on their country selves" in weekend cottages, and of the local hunt ("horses roped to gateposts/stamp and whinny, while a line/of tweed-jacketed men on the verge/laugh and jostle each other,/their urine arching into the grass,/glittering briefly in the weak light").
Brian Whittingham's Bunnets N Bowlers: A Clydeside Odyssey (Luath, £8.99) is a verse-memoir of working at Brown's Shipyard on the Clyde in the 1960s.
It is a book about work and the complex rituals of working men. About craft and graft, fighters, skivers, "drinkers and shaggers,/dancers and chancers" going home "clatty and knackered" at the end of the shift and "giving it laldy" at weekends.
It's a funny, moving, proud book celebrating a real time and place without falling for the temptations of nostalgia - "Working the big press/Hoping you didn't end up with nine fingers... Working the pyramid rolls/hoping the menacing rolled metal/wouldn't fall on your napper./Putting the plate-lifters in/and watching the shoogly mass swinging way above your head./Listening to caulkers/giving you a bit of the old industrial deafness."
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