Image: Martin O’Donnell’s Boat by Alice Myers
Today we’re putting up Best Scottish Poems 2011, a little bit later than usual but we hope you’ll agree that it was worth the wait. Of course ‘best’ is an individual judgement, which is why we change editors every year: if we could call it ’20 Splendid Scottish Poems’ or ’20 of the most interesting Scottish poems…’ that might be a more accurate label, but it doesn’t have the bite of ‘best’. And the chosen poets should have their moment of basking in the ‘best’ light.
Roddy Lumsden lives in London so we didn’t witness him at work on his choice: editors such as Janice Galloway and Jen Hadfield have sat here with a trolley beside them, topped up with tea, eventually reeling out of the SPL with a sheaf of photocopies to mull over at home. Having edited a ‘best of New Zealand’ poems alone, and co-edited two anthologies, I would plump for the co-editing experience, like Rosemary Goring and Alan Taylor in 2008, and Zoe Strachan and Louise Welsh for 2012. This is partly because I feel less exposed in my choices, and partly because the actual process was so congenial: sharing the pleasures, arguing over the merits of poems – a book club for two.
As with any judging, it’s fascinating to read intensely the work of an arbitrary period. There was a discussion on Radio 4 recently as to what was a vintage year for English literature: I’d bookmarked 1922, predictably – The Waste Land, Ulysses, Jacob’s Room, The Garden Party and other stories – not forgetting Just William and The Velveteen Rabbit! While there’s no guarantee that a single year will produce a great poetry collection, there will certainly be at least 20 outstanding poems that editors linger over and want to share. We hope you enjoy the crop of 2011.