"Bad Shaman Blues" are what we sing in middle age, when our visions and our virtues seem far away. They also lament the role of contemporary poetry: reached for in trauma, otherwise ignored. The poet as shaman cuts a reduced and comic figure - which immediately suggests W.N. Herbert. Packing his medicine pouch with classical lyric and barbarian spell, the Scot explores his border territories. Hadrian's Wall becomes a mirror through which to embark on an absurd shamanic flight to - naturally - Siberia. "Bad Shaman Blues" is a Through the Looking Glass book, in which the familiar and the foreign confront one another. Sofia and Novosibirsk, Crete and Kolkatta, are all distorted in its hall of mirrors. In the textual underworld of the Scots tradition, literary ghosts are stalked by critical machines. Herbert's latest book presents the conventional poetry volume with its doppelganger - dark, destabilising, daft. 'This antithesis of the slim volume bubbles and seethes with wit and polysyllabic adventurousness' - Edwin Morgan, "The Scotsman". 'A weird mix of Desperate Dan, MacDiarmid and Dostoyevsky...a rare and fantastic voice' - Fiachra Gibbons, "Guardian".
'One maverick genius compatriot' - Don Paterson, "Guardian". 'This multi-layered fantasising could be disorientating, but it ain't. Instead it is very funny and the reader is swept along' - Keith Bruce, "The Herald".
w.n. herbert is a highly versatile poet who writes both in English and Scots. Born in Dundee, he established his reputation with two English/Scots collections from Bloodaxe, Forked Tongue (1994) and Cabaret McGonagall (1996), followed by The Laurelude (1998) and The Big Bumper Book of Troy (2002). His other books include a critical study, To Circumjack MacDiarmid (OUP, 1992) and The Testament of the Reverend Thomas Dick (Arc, 1994). He is co-editor with Matthew Hollis of Strong Words: modern poets on modern poetry (Blood-axe, 2000), and lives in a lighthouse over-looking the River Tyne at North Shields. Shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Saltire Awards, Forked Tongue was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and a New Generation Poets title. Cabaret McGonagall was shortlisted for the Forward and McVities prizes, The Laurelude was a PBS Recommend-ation, and The Big Bumper Book of Troy was shortlisted for the Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year Award.