Poems, by Iain Banks and Ken MacLeod

Poems, by Iain Banks and Ken MacLeod

Unless someone seriously goes against his publicly (and hopefully legally) stated wishes, there will only ever be 30 Iain Banks books, including this one, his last and only posthumously published work. It combines his personally selected poems, mostly unpublished, with the poetry of his friend and colleague Ken MacLeod.

Iain BanksNow, I have to be up-front here: I know very little about, and have a hard time understanding poetry. I know enough to be fairly certain that my lack of knowledge concerning the form probably shares a strong causal relationship with my difficulty in appreciating it. I say this just to be clear. I think that like most folks who pick this one up, I read it more as a fan of Iain Banks, than as someone who knows literally anything about poetry.

The prose in his novels has often been described as poetic, which seems correct to me. He had quite a way with words, and his writing has a lyrical feel to it. Reading these poems kind of feels like looking at his novels through some sort of obfuscation lens. If you’re a fan of Banks, you’ll recognize some familiar locations and some themes that are obviously his, and I can assure you that the same wit, snark, and clever antagonism at work in his novels bleeds through in his poetry as well. The plot is stripped, the characters are simpler, but there’s still a story at play in most of them, and his signature lyrical prose is ever present.

What I can’t say for sure is if these poems have any merit to someone who is either unfamiliar with Banks, or themselves familiar with poetry. My entirely subjective, layman’s opinion is that I enjoyed several of them, and the rest were either not great, or went completely over my head. I would really only recommend this for die hard Banks’ completists. Otherwise, you can probably skip it and be just fine.

Ken MacLeodApologies to Ken MacLeod, I didn’t actually read your section in this collection. I am just not interested in poetry enough to want to read it for any reason other than already being interested in the author’s work, and wishing to read literally everything they’ve written. In the extremely thin chance that you are reading this: Hi there! I hope you understand and take no offense. Also, thank you for suggesting the changes made to Use of Weapons, we all owe you big time for that one.

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