Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)
Title: Who Are Your People (Cò As A Tha Thu?)
Poet: Matthew MacDonald
Where to buy: Red Squirrel Press
Summary: A collection of poetry about considering one’s roots.
Content Warnings: alcohol, graveyards, bleeding, death, paternal estrangement, abuse.
Who Are Your People is incredible. I heard some of the poems read aloud, so I connected even more with Matthew MacDonald’s poetry. His poetry is exceedingly precise, sensory, and authentic; as I read the collection, it felt like I was there in those moments.
time and I observe each other
through glass tinted with rain
as we pass, going by other routes
my watch is ticking forward
as I watch the world reverse
– On the Train, p.18
Macdonald’s poem, On the Train, deals with a journey where the speaker contemplates their identity and sense of home. This particular stanza was astounding; the opening line of “time and I observe each other” is profound as time is personified to be almost a witness to the speaker’s journey to their ancestral roots. The final lines of the stanza is incredibly visual, I could see the speaker sitting in the opposite direction to where the train was headed, and how time was racing back to when the speaker last visited; it creates the idea of two different realities/time periods merging together when returning to a familiar place, and I think most people could identify with that.
Continuing this theme of time, the speaker addresses memory entangled with identity:
this is why we came here
to visit the one who remembers you
not as you remember yourself
but as a child, carefree…
– History II – Hillside Cottage, p.30
Trying to remember yourself is a peculiar feeling. This poem is concerned with the speaker as a child in the north of Scotland, and it is quite bittersweet as the speaker is concerned about the changes the cottage has gone through as well as themselves.
Why did I read it?
I had the honour of seeing/meeting Matthew Macdonald at a Neil Hilborn gig. I stumbled upon the merchandise stall and saw an additional poetry book to Neil’s Our Numbered Days, and the title intrigued me so much that I bought it before seeing Matthew’s performance. (He looked surprised, to say the least!)
Does the poet have other works?
You can read more of Matthew MacDonald’s poetry on his website
As a fellow Scot, I connected to the scenery that MacDonald created. If you enjoy reflective, personal poetry about home, then this is for you.
– Melissa Jennings
What is your definition of home?
Let me know!