Book: Pick of the week

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The Independent Culture
You may remember, a few weeks back, I alerted you to a book by Marcus Irvin which contained a free live flea. Well, trend-spotters take note. In the name of bug control, I urge you to keep that volume well away on your bookshelves from the latest John Hegley collection. Selected copies of the canine poet laureate's new poems, Beyond Our Kennel, come with a silky-soft grey tuft of dog hair Sellotaped inside.

"It's off a Welsh Border Collie from Glasgow," explains Hegley. "It's from a wholesome source and washed," he adds encouragingly. You can win one of these deluxe strokable editions by triumphing at the limerick competition or snappy-caption contest at any of the live gigs on Hegley's current tour. It might be more in the Hegleyesque spirit of things, however, just to go and hanker longingly, then walk home empty-handed, head bowed by the inevitable futility of yearning.

The Beyond Our Kennel poems are chock full of early disappointments: the frustrated primary-school crush for a 10-year-old classmate who fails to interpret having her ankles kicked as a declaration of love; "the burden and pain of unspoken feeling congealing for Jane"; the failure to win his father's approval; the unfulfilled craving for a Christmas dog; or the estrangement of a best friend who no longer needs him - "Tony was my friend and then he got a dog, now his dog's his friend".

Many of Hegley's poems are written on trains, so look out for a bespectacled poet, hunched over his plastic flip-down table, with his green hold-all and his Portuguese ukelele. When he's finished mooching around with the round plastic swivelly thing on the back of the seat, he might compose another glorious railway poem - like this beauty, inspired en route to Shrewsbury by the ambiguous announcement: "If anybody has lost anything please contact the guard at the back of the train". "I imagine a queue forming at the train's back,/with various lostnesses," he writes. "I've lost fourteen nil at blow football in my time./ I've lost the ability to live purely in the moment."

`Beyond Our Kennel' is published by Methuen, pounds 8.99

Princes Hall, Aldershot (01252 330040) Wed; Forest Arts Centre, New Milton (01425 612393) Thur; Tower Arts Centre, Winchester (01962 867986) Fri; The Maltings, St Albans (01727 844222) 28 Nov