Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Tom Pickard: Ballad of Jamie Allan

Ballad of Jamie Allan, Tom Pickard (Flood Editions, 2007)


I've always cherished & respected Tom Pickard as the young chap who jump-started the elderly Basil Bunting's career, but I've always felt that there was an element of special pleading in the Baz's extravagant praise of Pickard's early work. Some of it, it's true, was a wonderful kind of drug-era updating of the Northern ballad tradition; a lot of it just didn't move me. The recent run of Flood Editions Pickard titles – a new & selected poems, The Dark Months of May, & now Ballad of Jamie Allan – have changed my mind: count me in with Bunting's shade as a full-fledged Pickard booster. Jamie Allan is really quite wonderful: the reconstruction of the life of an 18th-century Northumbrian piper, horse-thief, & general ne'er-do-well, told thru a collage of legal documents, newspaper reports, impressionistic 1st-person lyrics, and wonderful ballads. It's a mixture that constantly seems on the verge of falling apart into scrapbookery, but which miraculously hangs together, & rings in the mind afterwards.

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