Grimoire: New Scottish Folk Tales by Robin Robertson

Booker Prize nominee Robin Robertson reimagines Scottish folk tales in a magical new poetry collection

Book Review by Beth Cochrane | 30 Sep 2020
  • Grimoire by Robin Robertson
Book title: Grimoire: New Scottish Folk Tales
Author: Robin Robertson

Robin Robertson’s new collection Grimoire: New Scottish Folk Tales unearths and remakes the folk tales of selkies and seers, changelings and shapeshifters, into poetry that is at once otherworldly and familiar. Illustrated by the author's brother, Tim Robertson, the images lie stark in black-and-white; at once slashing fresh meaning onto the page while also taking flight with the poetry. The mythic and uncanny walk hand in hand up your garden path and straight through your front door.

Grimoire is an elemental manual for the magic of shapeshifting and changing: "'Watch the wind doesn’t change, or you’ll stay like that…’/ So I stayed and watched the wind so long I became it;/ became it, for its very changing." Through a natural wave of language – weaving between Scots, Gaelic and English – and by sweeping through landscape and story, Robertson masterfully commands reinvoking traditional tales as present and persistent stories.

It is no wonder Roberston’s narrative poem-novel, The Long Take, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2018. Grimoire is a collection which revels in this same talent for the tale; the reader is insistently drawn through these poems by the mythical narrative figure. Whether you read for the magic of the story, for the lull of beautiful language, or for the mysteries of the occult, Grimoire is a must-have for your poetry shelf this autumn. 

Picador, 1 Oct, £11.99