Skip to main content


Jenny Wong reviews
The Good News
By Rob Mackenzie

Deft, purposeful and precise, Rob Mackenzie’s latest collection The Good News examines from different perspectives the human need for faith, love and truth. His poetry fuses imaginative scenarios with prophetic voices, whilst it conjures a somewhat surreal yet familiar contemporary reality.

It is a delight to see the poet’s risk-taking experiments with form result in highly original satires such as ‘Tippexed Speeches on Scottish Independence'. In measured pace, Mackenzie taps into the latent meanings of a politician’s language, reworking the news-speak by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Alex Salmond. By highlighting the different interpretations of ownership through the different use and repetition of ‘I/we/us’, and by leaving out parts of their speeches, the poet exposes the politicians' craft in swaying the crowd with deliberate, emotive language, such as the following imagined speech from David Cameron:

I also understand why people
  want a Scotland where more people own
    where more people keep more
  where business can                (p.17)

In looking at the question of Scottish independence, Mackenzie adopts a language of his own and presents both sides of the argument with artless humour. In his poem ‘The Point’, he explores the inclusivity and exclusivity of the pronoun ‘we’, as the people are confronted with an uncertain future:

…We cannot trust ourselves
to talk about how we think the things we've thought.
Our independence, our politics, our fitting demise

are not worth retweeting.                    (p.16)

Inspired by Ian Pindar’s ‘Chain Letter’, ‘A Scottish Cent(o)ury’ is a powerful poem that projects a present reality illuminated by the past. With lines chosen from 100 Scottish poems, this is a piece of refashioned vernacular kindled with hope, in the context of changing social and political expectations.

In his previous interview with Robert Peake for Huffington Post, Mackenzie talks about the difficulty to trust in a world full of subterfuge, and sees poetry as a way of countering fakery:

Poems can capture moments like undoctored photographs - as evidence against fakery and unreliability - but they can also enact fakery and unreliability by (in effect) photoshopping the past. Good poems don't try to fit in. Good poems don't pander to expectations. They know the official versions of events and subvert them.’

Divided into three sections – ‘The Lingua Franca Happy Hour’, ‘Autistic Variations’ and ‘Human Manoeuvre’, the book explores the needs and expectations of an individual, and reflects a constant adjustment process of perception and interpretation, of self-acceptance and self-renewal. Using the metaphor of an autistic child, the second section offers a moving account of self-exploration and understanding. For example, in ‘Torino in Furs’, a child grows up within and apart from the Torinese community, as an outsider, and his un-belongingness escapes the ‘untrained eyes’, and the place itself feels unlike home, as if it were ‘a whole city with Asperger Syndrome’.

Carefully poised and sometimes unsettling, Mackenzie’s poems tackle the gap between what seems and what really is, being arriving at what truly matters, such as the moment of clarity in ‘The Boxer’:

…I have been working on
a lyric called The Boxer, a sort of Kate Moss
vs. Simon & Garfunkel growl mix, but it’s really
about longings and other howlers I have made. (p.72)

Moving between political satires and introspective poems, Mackenzie’s book is full of optimism, vision and acerbic wit. Borrowing from a vast range of materials and voices, his poems puts forward questions or hypotheses of our existence, which are at once profound, unsettling and yet uplifting.

Jennifer Wong is a British-based poet born and raised in Hong Kong.  Eyewear reviewed her recent poetry collection a few posts back.

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog


According to the latest CBS, ABC, etc, polls, Clinton is still likely to beat Trump - by percentile odds of 66% to 33% and change. But the current popular vote is much closer, probably tied with the error of margin, around 44% each. Trump has to win more key battleground states to win, and may not - but he is ahead in Florida...

We will all know, in a week, whether we live in a world gone madder, or just relatively mad.

While it seems likely calmer heads will prevail, the recent Brexit win shows that polls can mislead, especially when one of the options is considered a bit embarrassing, rude or even racist - and Trump qualifies for these, at least.

If 42-45% of Americans admit they would vote for Trump, what does that say about the ones not so vocal? For surely, they must be there, as well. Some of the undecided will slide, and more likely they will slide to the wilder and more exciting fringe candidate. As may the libertarians.

Eyewear predicts that Trump will just about manage to win th…


Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or all of these) by Donald Trump, we cannot claim to be rid of him just yet. He bestrides the world stage like a silverback gorilla (according to one British thug), or a bad analogy, but he is there, a figure, no longer of fun, but grave concern.

There has long been a history of misogynistic behaviour in American gangster culture - one thinks of the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy, or Sinatra throwing a woman out of his hotel room and later commenting he didn't realise there was a pool below to break her fall, or the polluted womb in Pacino'sScarface... and of course, some gangsta rap is also sexist.  American culture has a difficult way with handling the combined aspects of male power, and male privilege, that, especially in heteronormative capitalist enclaves, where money/pussy both become grabbable, reified objects and objectives (The Wolf of Wall Street for instance), an ugly fus…


The Oscars - Academy Awards officially - were once huge cultural events - in 1975, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Shirley MacLaineandBob Hope co-hosted, for example - and Best Picture noms included The Conversation and Chinatown. Godfather Part 2 won. Last two years, movies titled Birdman and Spotlight won, and the hosts and those films are retrospectively minor, trifling. This year, some important, resonant films are up for consideration - including Hidden Figures and Moonlight, two favourites of this blog. Viola Davis and Denzel Washington will hopefully win for their sterling performances in Fences. However, La La Land - the most superficial and empty Best Picture contender since Gigi in 1959 (which beat Vertigo) - could smite all comers, and render this year's awards historically trivial, even idiotic.

The Oscars often opt for safe, optimistic films, or safe, pessimistic films, that are usually about white men (less often, white women) finding their path to doing the right thin…