6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 14 January 2001
Clear your head and fortify your soul with Scots writer Alan Spence's radiant little collection of technically daring and impeccable haiku poems, simultaneously charting the year's changes and the shifts in emotional weather that we are all subject to. Time will tell, but it looks set to join the very small club of artistic creations (see also "Memoirs of a Geisha," "Madame Butterfly") that triumphantly bridge east and west. Spence has a deep appreciation of the Zen aesthetic, which is blended with the lightest touches of wit and sometimes-mordant irony that is peculiarly Scottish.
the Zen garden/a crack in the wall/in exactly the right place
He has unerring judgement about concrete detail, sometimes just letting the wonderful thingness of things bleed into the reader's consciousness, other times squeezing whole histories into three lines. A deep well of delights that repays visit after visit.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 22 June 2004
Having been introduced to Spence's work through his superlative short story collections, it was a joy to discover his poetry. Spence is a practicising buddhist, and spirituality runs like a rich vein through his writing. His poetry draws on eastern traditions, but often phrased in Glaswegian vernacular which not only adds to the often humorous content but also lends his work an accesibility to Scottish readers.
This little collection is an absolute gem of a book as Spence charts the course of the year through a series of haiku, his words throughout poised and elegant, chosen with scalpel precision.
I wouldn't say Spence is striving to reveal some great inner truth through his work; rather he's looking at the ordinary in a extraordinary way, like Blake finding Heaven in a wild flower. It's a short book, and you'll read it in quarter of an hour, but you'll return to it again and again.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 July 2004
Because this book is small, you can take it anywhere. Alan Spence was born in the Gorbals and is a practising Buddhist. His poems unite the Scottish aesthetic-if there is such a thing-with the Eastern aesthetic-ditto. He doesn't try and kid us he's Japanese, he's just himself, travelling to various places and through a year of his life, observing, meditating, being. Whether you're "into" poetry or whether you're not, I think you'll like this book. Unless you want an epic,of course.