Play With Me by Michael Pedersen
By turns elegiac, nostalgic, hilarious and deeply serious, Michael Pedersen's debut poetry collection, Play With Me, marks the arrival of an important new voice on the Scottish literary landscape. Taking on subjects as diverse as adolescent longing, domestic violence, travel dislocation and unemployment, these succinct verses are focused through the prism of Pedersen's often unique, but always relatable mid-20s experience.
There is a delight in words and phrases, particularly in the melding of Scots and standard English, and a gift for simile – "my favourite stairwells as erudite elders: folded skins and muckle beards" – that betrays these poems' true home; the mouth of the poet. Pedersen is co-founder of Neu! Reekie!, one of Scotland's most vibrant spoken-word nights, where he can frequently be found airing these tales of Buckfast bathos.
Plenty here could fail spectacularly in the wrong hands: shifts between the comic and the grave and Southeast-Asian travel observations, for example. Instead, at every turn insight and honesty abound, with the best of the collection an exorcism of emotion. On occasion a verse will miss, but when they do hit, they hit hard. These reflections on relationships, Edinburgh, youth and death from one of the country's most promising poets are essential. [Ryan Rushton]