Dirt by Billy Letford


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Billy Letford’s Dirt revels in the fallow, the tainted, the off , and the unloved. The poems embrace a good life stitched together with bad circumstances, bungled chances, missed callings. Whether loitering on the street corner, ‘poackets ful eh ma fingers’, or stumbling from a bar ‘like a monkey in the jungle of traffic, stinking, wild and free’, the characters in Letford’s poems deliver one thing in spades: heart. ‘On Friday I visit my seventy-seven-year-old granny. She’s smoking a joint. It’s not a surprise.’ Letford’s words are lightly worn yet carefully measured; they move between English and Scots, lyrical and concrete, accumulating what the poet has described as an array of textures. Resisting modernity’s unearthly glare, it is a life with grain, with grit, ‘rotten with wonder’, that Letford seeks. The poems dig for a grace within dirt’s humble endurance. ‘There’s dignity there. Lay yourself open.’

'William Letford is his own man. His work is as utterly original and instantly recognisable as, say, Raymond Carver’s or Billy Collins’, though he’s not like either. His last collection launched a brand new voice. This one, full of grit and tenderness, gives us many voices, places and stories.'
Liz Lochhead

‘The pleasure I have gained from new Scottish genius William Letford’s poems... will, I am confident, stay with me forever.’
- Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

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