The Colour of Black and White: Poems 1984-2003 by Liz Lochhead
Birlinn (ebook), 2011
The Colour of Black and White is Liz Lochhead’s first collection of poems for more than a dozen years, and, for her, the most important since the award-winning Dreaming Frankenstein and Collected Poems in 1984. The coming of a simple love lyric feels like a proof that some vital stream hasn’t dried up. These new poems are often poems of love or death and iconic figures, Jungian archetypes, animus figures with strong outlines, harsh comfort and, often, voices of their own dominate the first, the ‘title’ section of the book. Here you can find poems autobiographical and entirely fictional set in her native rural/industrial Lanarkshire. Poems dedicated to other poets. There is a section of the rude and the rhyming, the out-loud. Now she’s in her middle years she’s decided to own up to this stuff properly, her interest in ‘unrespectable’ poetry, in black prison ‘toasts’, in recitations, folk-poems and music hall monologues. The colour of both the black and the white. The collaboration with the printmaker Willie Rodger was also an essential part of the making of this book. Lochhead, long an admirer of Rodger’s work, felt strongly that he was a kindred spirit and his poetically pared down and essential lino cuts accentuate the positive and the negative, the black and the white.
The Unknown Citizen
How to exist
in a land of unreadable signs and ambiguous symbols
The Colour of Black and White is a really enjoyable collection of poems. I didn’t enjoy the poems as much as her other collection, Dreaming Frankenstein & Collected Poems 1967-1984 that I read recently but I really enjoyed them. I was delighted when reading the biographical information to learn than Lochhead is from my neck of the woods. She was born in Motherwell, Lanarkshire and grew up in Newarthill, Lanarkshire. I grew up in Newarthill. That’s sort of cool. Lochhead writes the sort of poems I love to read and write. Each poem is a little story, a snapshot of experiences and events. She conveys the emotions, life experiences and feelings in 40 lines that some writers take 90,000 words to do. My favourites in the collection are, The Beekeeper, The Baker, Lanarkshire Girls, After the War, A Night In, The Bride, Renfield’s Nurse and My Way. I’d highly recommend this collection.