james mcgonigal
Poet  •  Critic

The Camphill Wren

Morpeth: Red Squirrel Press (2016).

My first full collection was published in 2016 by the enterprising Red Squirrel Press of Northumbria. This small press was close to the Border country where I was born, and to the Northern poetry of Basil Bunting which had an impact on me from the mid-1960s onwards. But more important was the creative energy of its founder, Sheila Wakefield. That she had recently persuaded Gerry Cambridge to typeset the press’s new poetry was a particular bonus. For The Camphill Wren he used Foundry Wilson, a redrawing of a 1760 font from the Scottish type founder Alexander Wilson (1714–1786), a polymath who was the University of Glasgow’s first Regius Professor of Astronomy. I appreciated this kindly half-ironic glance at my academic life (which was neither polymathic nor astronomical), and also the font itself: ‘a highly distinctive and robust serif typeface which functions excellently in a digital environment’.

The 75 pages of The Camphill Wren assemble new and uncollected poems 1975–2015, forming three-quarters of the total, complemented by some work from earlier pamphlets. Richard Price commented in his Painted, spoken 28 on its ‘unique combination of wit and human warmth’. Stewart Conn noted the element of surprise in reading the poems, ‘trying to anticipate where their dazzling intricacy of word and image, boldness of metaphor and sporadic playfulness might lead’. Liz Lochhead, a painter before she was a poet, focused on the visual: ‘he is an architect of thin air, wresting from rain, birdsong and atmosphere suddenly solid structures of memory and moment lit up vividly by language of acute and quirky precision’. Here is a sample of the poems.

1. The Camphill Wren

2. Not a Day

3. Washing Lines

4. First Things

5. Ghost Academy

6. Low Country and Western

7. Listen to It

8. Moth Music

9. Learning Cloud

10. Flatpack Poem

Click on the cover to return to the poetry page.

Contact  James McGonigal

See below the text on the right about the book for links
to sample poems.