Kevin MacNeil's poetry in Love and Zen in the Outer Hebrides
has both the freshness of youth and the wisdom of experience. As is the case with most who have grown up on the Isle of Lewis, MacNeil is profoundly inspired by the elements, especially the sea, the roaring Minch, which for Hebrideans is both a constant presence in - and influence on - their lives. This relationship with nature is omnipresent in MacNeil's writing, as it is in the poetry of Skye's Aonghas MacNeacail. MacNeil has obviously digested the writing of Aonghas MacNeacail and Sorley MacLean, but his work is not derivative; rather, his is a fresh voice, often a more playful voice, and one that fearlessly channels joy, pain and longing into beautifully descriptive language.
As a debut anthology, this is a staggering achievement. That MacNeil is a fearless and wildly talented writer is unquestionable. The anthology could equally have been called 'Love and Longing in the Outer Hebrides', as the poetry's subject matter seems more focused on longing than being (Zen involves accepting what is rather than longing for what is not). Putting the subject matter to one side, the style of MacNeil's poetry is pure Zen: minimalist, profound, philosophical and poignant. Kevin MacNeil at his most eloquently descriptive is a joy to read. If you want a book of unique poetry by a writer unafraid to feel with his own heart, think with his own mind and speak with his own voice, buy this. I can't recommend it highly enough.