I wonder whether readers of The Oldie who are not addicts of new verse realised the distinction of the late James Michie, whose latest poem appeared in their magazine every month over the eight years from 1999 until his death in October 2007. As editor Richard Ingrams makes clear in his brief Foreword to Last Poems, no one else was invited or allowed to submit poems to the magazine. Michie, who had for a time been Literary Editor, was the deserving permanent fixture because his poems were ‘quite short … perfectly intelligible … sharp and witty’.
All of which is true, but Ingrams fails to mention the rueful, touching, sometimes unnerving (though at other times consolatory) quality of Michie’s contributions. More about these attributes in a moment; but it does seem appropriate first to emphasise, in recommending this book, that James Michie’s ability to attract and