Poets tend – at least in the public imagination – not to be domestic gods or goddesses. In that respect Alastair Reid was unusual. The kitchen rather than the study or the library was his preferred hangout. When he came to stay with us he would plant himself at the kitchen table and not move for hours on end.

The most generous compliment he ever paid me was when he remarked that our kitchen was one in which he could easily put his hands on things. Occasionally, when he couldn’t find a gadget, such as a knife sharpener or a hand liquidiser, he would produce it as a gift. Soup was what he liked most to make. Even in Greenwich Village in New York, his base for more than half a century, he would attempt to recreate the soups of his youth in Galloway or the Borders. As a soup maker, he was a traditionalist, never venturing far from such staples as Scotch broth or lentil, the emperor of all soups. That was one of the many things on which we agreed. His addition of ginger, however, was way too exotic for my palate.

Among the previously unpublished poems in Barefoot: The Collected Poems I was surprised and pleased to see one called Making Soup. In it, the poet describes a morning doing just that while simultaneously allowing a poem to simmer. I imagine that Alastair – let’s forego the formalities just this once – was then, the late 1970s, living on a houseboat on the Thames with his young son, Jasper. At that time Alastair was both home-maker and breadwinner, writing pieces for the New Yorker which allowed him to come and go as he pleased and to spend a few hours strolling to a nearby shop or market, acquire and prepare the necessary ingredients, and set a pot on the stove.

To the serious business of soup-making, Alastair brings a soupçon of sensuality, revelling in the “sleek elegance” of the vegetables – “the trim white hocks of the leeks, in racecourse green, the juice-tight, white transparency of the onions” – and “the faint tree-root whiff of thyme and bayleaf”.

As dedicated soupermen know, the moment when the pan begins to boil is when the heat can be turned down, the lid put on and the clock allowed to perform its magic. For the poet, “Now is the time/ to return to the desk, to the steady simmer of words,/ but bolstered, through the slow scrawl of the morning,/ by the process of soup, that glutinous rich blending”.

Making Soup reminded me of Robert Frost’s After Apple-Picking and John Updike’s Planting Trees, poems which celebrate the humdrum. Like them, Making Soup is conversational in tone; reading it I can hear Alastair reciting it, his accent still discernibly Scottish but with a transatlantic twang. His ambivalence towards his native heath was summed up in his best-known poem, Scotland, which closes with the thrice repeated refrain: “We’ll pay for it.” The Scotland on which he turned his back in the 1950s was inward-looking, mean-spirited, bereft of joy, all of which Alastair was not.

Suffering from the incurable condition of itchy feet, he was a relentless traveller, first in Spain, where he met and befriended and fell out with Robert Graves, later in South America where his circle included Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Pablo Neruda and Jorge Luis Borges. He became a translator of Neruda and Borges’ poems and Alastair’s own lean collections were often fattened with translations he made of their work.

I have always felt that this tended to draw attention away from Alastair who, at his best, deserves to be a member of their company. Barefoot: The Collected Poems is the book that his many fans have long been waiting for. Handsomely produced by Cambridge-based Galileo Publishers and sensitively edited by Tom Pow, it contains more than 120 poems, 50 or more than Alastair chose to include in Inside Out, published 10 years ago by Polygon.

The order is approximately chronological; Alastair rarely dated his poems and Pow has opted to rely on their appearance in books and magazines to locate them. A mere seven of the poems here included have never appeared in print before. What Alastair would have thought of this the editor does not speculate. In my view, Pow is right to place them before the reading public.

One example – Aunt Elsie – must suffice. It describes a visit Alastair and Jasper make to 90-year-old Elsie – “delicate as an eggshell” – who mistakes Alastair for his father and Jasper for him. The last of four stanzas is quintessential Reid:

Questions of who we are

should never have an answer.

We leave old selves, like places,

disquietingly behind.

And as for the complexities

we fail to understand,

at least they make their sense in

Aunt Elsie’s scrapbook mind.

Born in Whithorn in 1926, Alastair was a son of the manse with all the baggage that entails. Galloway was his Eden and his removal from it to Selkirk was painful. His first collection of poems, 12 Poems, was published in 1949 after his service in the Royal Navy.

As Pow notes, these were drawn from a portfolio of more than 50 poems, only 10 of which, it would appear, the editor believes are of sufficient quality to be republished in Barefoot. Over the following years Alastair, never prolific, published several more collections which, when he later came to make selections, he plundered repeatedly. The bar he set himself was at a pole-vaulter’s level and he was merciless when he came to rejecting poems he felt did not reach the height he hoped to attain.

But as I read through this quite wonderful assembly, here again was Alastair, who died in 2014, revivified, a lover of word play, travel, cats, small towns and big cities, an ardent hater of death, a shoeless, footloose, curious, playful man of the world. “Weathering,” he wrote in the poem of that title, “is what I would like to do well.” Of that he had no need to fear.