Songs of the Clyde

18th November 1994 at 00:00
The Other Side of the Clyde, Edited by David Drever and Liam Stewart, Hodder Stoughton Pounds 5.99. 0 340 61132 4.

Pages from the first edition of this vibrant anthology of modern Scottish writing can still be found on the floor of English department book cupboards, testimony to the constant use endured by the original books, and to their far from perfect binding.This edition is more substantial in several respects. Some new material has elbowed its way in, the poems have been separated from the short stories, and the whole is buttressed by a thoroughly useful Exploring the Texts Section.

A litany of the themes covered, first love, teenage pregnancy, terrorism, adoption, racism does not do justice to the way in which the writers in this anthology, like the old lady in the Tango ad, invariably creep up and frighten familiar ideas.

In that faraway land on the other side of the Clyde, Sharon, the Ferryman's Daughter with yellow teeth, parades her love bites and the acned Peter gives a budgie a heart attack with a blast on his clarinet. Having once witnessed a lad swallowing a rare Peruvian artefact to impress his classmates, I found Alasdair Gray's fragment describing a boy who swallows a fallen star uncomfortably familiar.

Many of the poems demand to be read aloud. Liz Lochhead's "Fat Girl" confesses to coping with the pain of rejection by devouring ". . . a whole packet of Mr Kipling Kunzle Cakes and a half-hundred weight sack of Mexicali Taco Chipsdunked in maple syrup". Adam McNaughton contributes not only his version of "Oor Hamlet" but a companion piece "The Scottish Song". Both are invaluable tools for Standard Grade and GCSE Shakespeare revision.

The Exploring the Texts section includes suggestions for pupils working individually, in pairs, in groups or as a part of the whole class. Although this section is addressed to the pupil, differentiation by task and outcome will have to be managed by the teacher. Nevertheless, the suggested activities are useful and innovative if occasionally tongue in cheek as in "Try to get a hold of the recording . . . or failing that ask your teacher to sing one of the songs". Aye, that'll be right.

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