The Collected Poems: (1959-2024) by Roger McGough

Penguin/Viking, release date 27/06/24 

The Collected Poems is a tome, 720 pages of poetry that represents a lifetime of Roger McGough’s signature writing.

The poems are not in a chronological order and therefore not, as is usually the case, taken from named collections. Does this matter? I’m not sure: a recognition of relevance in chronology/time is mentioned broadly in the Foreword by McGough with

‘The years spanned by the poems in this volume divide into several periods, from the late fifties, when I wrote my first poem while at Hull University, through the sixties with the Beatles, The Mersey Sound and the Scaffold, followed by the dark come-uppance of the seventies and beyond.’

and in the Addendum with

‘Liverpool page 53
‘Liverpool (after William McGonigal)’ and the several poems that follow were first published in The Liverpool Scene in 1967, edited by Edward Lucie-Smith.’

but this is basically telling us there is a range of poems from different times. Collected…

It doesn’t matter. What matters is how these poems reflect and impact. Much will depend, I’d guess, on the age of the reader. Those of us introduced to McGough’s poetry through The Mersey Sound in ‘67 will be looking for these touchstones, no matter how familiar; those new to his work (it would be interesting to gauge such an appeal) will encounter writing that is delightfully playful and one that engages with popular culture (across the years) generally through a light touch.

I enjoyed reading those poems I have read so many times before (often recalling their instant appeal and relevance when, as a teacher, I presented them to my students); valued being reminded of the less familiar with a different kind of nostalgic appreciation; consolidated my respect for a writer who revels in a poetic playfulness full of wit and cleverness, and reintroduced me to a poet who always cares: the collection’s final two previously unpublished poems demonstrating this with an inimitable simple resonance.

Above all, this is a large collection for dipping in and out, embracing the moments of smiling (some laughing out loud), reminiscing on or being reminded of an early poetic period that was enlivening for its spirited freshness, and recognizing – at times ruefully – how poetry both continues to thrive in but can also be dated by the passage of time.



Mike Ferguson





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2 Responses to The Collected Poems: (1959-2024) by Roger McGough

    1. I’ve always struggled with Roger McGough – not that it bothers him …. but I came to him after the American Beats and when I was going further back … bad timing

      Comment by Steven Taylor on 20 June, 2024 at 6:16 am
    2. Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention.

      Off to pre-order this right NOW!

      Comment by Boakesey on 21 June, 2024 at 7:21 pm

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