50 Poems & The Fire of Belonging: The Life and Work of Mick Imlah

Robert Selby

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This is the most sustained study to date of the late poet Mick Imlah. The close reading it makes of a number of his poems is informed and placed in context by biographical information gathered from archival research and interviews with his friends and colleagues. The study argues that Imlah’s first collection, Birthmarks, can be understood in the context of his predilection for the fictive potential of poetry being complemented by a contemporaneous, wider renaissance in interest in the Browningesque dramatic monologue and narrative. The study argues that his second collection, The Lost Leader, can be understood in the context of Imlah’s increased identification with his Scottish heritage, triggered by creative and personal crises and encouraged by Scotland’s growing sense of nationhood towards the end of the twentieth century. The implication is that Imlah’s oeuvre, contrary to the perception that it is sui generis, can be regarded as in dialogue with changes that took place within and without British poetry towards the end of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first: the re-appreciation of Victorian verse, for instance, or the emergence, from the 1980s, of a more confident Scottish voice.

Informing – and informed by – this study of Imlah’s poetry is a collection of fifty poems by the study’s author that displays a movement, similar to that which characterised Imlah’s career, towards a preoccupation with extolling a place. Both parts of the study contribute to our understanding of Imlah’s body of work, which, half a decade on from his death, is still well-regarded but becoming obscure. It is hoped that this study acts as a springboard for more specific explorations of his poetry over the coming years.

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Motion, Andrew, Supervisor
  • Hampson, Robert, Advisor
Award date1 Mar 2015
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015


  • Mick Imlah
  • Tennyson
  • Robert Browning
  • James Thomson
  • City of Dreadful Night
  • neo-Victorian
  • postmodernism
  • postcolonialism
  • dramatic monologue
  • dramatic narrative
  • Victor Hugo
  • Quasimodo
  • The Zoologist's Bath
  • Birthmarks
  • Sycamore Press
  • John Fuller
  • Alan Hollinghurst
  • Bernard O'Donoghue
  • Oxford Poetry
  • Poetry Review
  • Chatto and Windus
  • John Florio Society
  • Nicholas Jenkins
  • blank verse
  • Gerard Woodward
  • Mark Ford
  • Robert Crawford
  • Andrew McNeillie
  • Clutag Press
  • Solomon
  • Times Literary Supplement
  • Walter Scott
  • William Wallace
  • Robert the Bruce
  • Robert Burns
  • Scotland
  • Scottish poetry
  • devolution
  • Ayrshire
  • Aberdeen
  • Glasgow
  • Stephen Boyd
  • Union of the Crowns
  • Unionism
  • The Lost Leader
  • Bonnie Prince Charlie
  • Diehard
  • Edwin Muir
  • Douglas Dunn
  • Seamus Heaney
  • New Generation Poets
  • Don Paterson
  • Poll Tax
  • King James II
  • King James VI
  • My Last Duchess
  • Magdalen
  • Oxford
  • Motor neurone disease
  • Faber and Faber
  • Andrew Motion
  • Philip Larkin
  • Tom Leonard
  • Melvyn Bragg
  • London Scottish
  • James Fenton
  • Ian Hamilton
  • Arthur Hallam
  • Matilda Tennyson
  • Thomas Hardy
  • Kent
  • Orford
  • Suffolk
  • Penguin Book of Scottish Verse
  • Blind Harry
  • Robert Baston
  • Highland
  • Robert Henryson
  • Little Gidding
  • Highland Clearances
  • Jacobite
  • North Britain
  • Faber Book of Twentieth Century Scottish Verse
  • Mary Queen of Scots
  • referendum
  • Poetry of place
  • nationalism
  • Afterlives of the Poets
  • Demyship
  • Dulwich College
  • Robert Langbaum
  • Forward Prize
  • Edward Lucie-Smith
  • Anthony Thwaite
  • Past Caring
  • Braveheart
  • Queen's Maries
  • Donald Davie
  • Margaret Drabble
  • Tusking
  • Goldilocks
  • Eliot

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