London Scottish

London Scottish
April, the last full fixture of the spring:
'Feet, Scottish, feet!' – they rucked the fear of God
Into Blackheath. Their club was everything:
And of the four sides playing that afternoon,
The stars, but also those from the back pitches,
All sixty volunteered for the touring squad,
And swapped their Richmond turf for Belgian ditches.
October: mad for a fight, they broke too soon
On the Ypres Salient, rushing the ridge between
'Witshit' and Messines.                 Three-quarters died.

Of that ill-balanced and fatigued fifteen
The ass selectors favoured to survive,
Just one, Brodie the prop, resumed his post.
The others sometimes drank to 'The Forty-Five':
Neither a humorous nor an idle toast.
Mick Imlah

from The Lost Leader (Faber and Faber, 2008)

Reproduced by permission of the publisher.
Mick Imlah

Mick Imlah was born in Aberdeen in 1956 and spent his early years in Milngavie before the family moved to Kent. He graduated from Oxford with a First in English in 1979 and, still in his twenties, became editor of Poetry Review. His first collection, Birthmarks (Chatto & Windus, 1988) was followed by individual poems and a pamphlet but it was not until 2008 that his second collection, The Lost Leader, was published by Faber & Faber. It won the Forward Prize. Meanwhile Imlah had succeeded Andrew Motion as poetry editor at Chatto, leaving in 1993 to become poetry editor of the Times Literary Supplement. He remained there until his untimely death from motor neurone disease in 2009.

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London Scottish National Poetry Day postcard 2009

This poem was reproduced on a postcard for National Poetry Day 2009. Eight poetry postcards are published each year by the Scottish Poetry Library to celebrate National Poetry Day and are distributed throughout Scotland to schools, libraries and other venues. The theme for 2009 was heroes and villains. You can find out more about National Poetry Day in our National Poetry Day pages.