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How do isolation, belonging and the land shape us? What difference does this make to how we live? Andrew Philip's second collection delves deep into these and other questions.
In the opening and closing portions of the book, Philip takes us further into the life of MacAdam — an enigmatic character from his multi-award nominated debut, The Ambulance Box. MacAdam, who seems to have built a version of the Large Hadron Collider in his garden shed, attempts to find "the fundamental particle of night". We follow him into the chaos that results, as his experiments run out of control, culminating in a powerful encounter with a mysterious intruder.
The middle of the collection brings us poems of place, love and politics. A newsreader's BBC English transmogrifies into Scots without her realising. Edinburgh's worst piper is lambasted in a rollicking Burns pastiche that led novelist Rodge Glass to dub Philip his "new favourite poet". And an intricate, tender sequence charts the highs and lows of a decade of marriage.
Rich in humour, imaginative reach and formal invention, The North End of the Possible displays a fresh strength in narrative writing for Philip and pushes his lyric gifts to new heights.
‘Philip has great formal skill, high ambition and a strong, supple lyric voice. This is his strongest work to date.’ —Michael Symmons Roberts
‘A real gem of a collection —witty, wide-ranging, deft, funny, adroit and moving, but most of all, wonderfully, wonderfully readable.’ —John Glenday
‘Craving to show anger turned into comedy, love wry and without vanity, Philip describes this world with hallucinatory language play.’ —Ira Lightman
‘Andrew Philip has great formal skill, high ambition, and a lyric voice strong and supple enough to explore scientific and theological ideas, and to make tender and beautiful love poems. The promise he showed in The Ambulance Box is amply delivered in The North End of the Possible.’ —Michael Symmons Roberts
‘This is a real gem of a collection — it’s witty, wide-ranging, deft, funny, adroit and moving, but most of all, wonderfully, wonderfully readable. A book that takes us straight to the heart of the matter, and the matter of the heart. Paul Farley described the great poem as a ‘page stopper’ and with Philip’s The North End of the Possible I constantly found myself going back to read through poems again for the sheer enjoyment of their craftsmanship and music.’ —John Glenday
‘Craving to show anger turned into comedy, love wry and without vanity, and pain that shan't lead to anger or bitterness, Philip describes this world; as if were a trial, at times in desperation for the next. A daily round, chancing (without control of the process), sometimes on the between spaces — of banter, longing for the departed, and hallucinatory language play.’ —Ira Lightman
‘A poet of genuine promise revelling in the discovery of his natural lyric gift’ —Ron Butlin, Sunday Herald books of the year feature
‘Andrew Philip [is a poet] not merely of promise but of attainment.’ —Donny Rourke, The Edinburgh Companion to Twentieth-Century Scottish Literature
‘The Ambulance Box is Andrew Philip's first full collection of verse ... and in it he delights readers with a dance through images and words that express powerful visionary and spiritual experiences. ... Philip adds to the texture of his poems with words that are precisely idiomatic and have a consistency of tone which never falters throughout this collection of wide-ranging, but firmly located, voices, that encourage us to explore the visual and linguistic connections that link art with faith and uncertainty; art with loss and discovery; and art with the artist.’ —Rosie Sheppard, Magma Poetry
‘There are countless poems or collections that successfully achieve the cathartic effect — for me at least — so I thought I’d do a whistle-stop tour of just some of what I’d term my own ‘cathartic greatest hits’ … I was swept away by Andrew Philip’s recent collection The Ambulance Box as a whole, but also by individual poems. The elegy ‘Lullaby’, just eight lines long, written for a baby who died, culminates in the couplet
this is the man you fathered —
his voided love, his writhen pride and grief
Perhaps it’s the word ‘fathered’ recast, and then the Anglo-Saxon ‘writhen’ carrying with it the weight of history, that together generate such charge.’ —Jacqueline Saphra, Magma Poetry Newsletter
‘[one] of the collections (let alone debut collections) of the year.’ —Matt Merritt
‘I read this book from beginning to end in one sitting. Why? Because it is not only good, it is compulsive. Andrew Philip uses poetry as a tool to discover new truths about his personal experience and the experience of people and communities around him. He does this with rare economy, resonant imagery, compassion and insight. He loves language, all three of the tongues of Scotland …, and he uses English and Scots writing to their strengths. He knows when to sign off and he genuinely understands that less means more but avoids obscurity. He writes about what matters to people. He cares.’ —John Hudson, Markings
‘Salt cements its reputation for fresh contemporary poetry with this much-anticipated second full collection from acclaimed Scottish poet Andrew Philip. Humour and invention are mainstays of Philip’s work, and in both English and Scots, his wit leads us gently into a nuanced exploration of existence, remoteness and belonging.’ —Colin Begg, The List