Poet and artist Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925-2006) was perhaps best known, at least in Scotland, for his extraordinary garden at Little Sparta near Biggar, with its fusion of landscape, art, and concrete verse.

But he was also a more conventional poet of charm and humour as is demonstrated by this sample from his collection The Dancers Inherit the Party.


Loading article content

And this is Finlay's house –

A wild stone on the floor,

Lots and lots of books

And a chair where you can't sit for

– No, not the tar –

The hooks, the lost fish-hooks.

Dried fish festoon the wall

And that stone sticks the door.

Spiders spin in nooks.

The visitors tend to fall.

They trip first, then they fall –

They catch on the lost fish-hooks.

I ought to shift that stone

But it seems easier

To unscrew the door.

Am I an awful man?

I'm better housed than ducks

And like to lose fish-hooks.