Before there was "let it go", there was "let it out and let it in" as Jude was urged to begin to know what love was. It is impossible to read any of Paul McCartney's lyrics without hearing the Beatles' musical refrain as it takes over the lines, dictating rhythm, pace and mood. In Blackbird Singing, his first poetry collection, early and later poems are brought together with some of his finest lyrics, including pop classics such as "Yesterday", "Lady Madonna" and "My Love". Lyrics such as "The Long and Winding Road" retain their poignancy on paper, while others resist being presented as verse and appear banal or trite: "Heart of the Country" and "Mull of Kintyre" teeter on the edge of embarrassment. One may feel that "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" seems naked and frail without the rousing brass section.
The collection is fondly edited by populist poet and fellow Liverpudlian Adrian Mitchell who pleads that readers clean out their heads, "wash out the name and the fame" and read what's here. "Dinner Tickets", a poem written about childhood and being caught with a sexy drawing of a female nude in his pocket allows McCartney's deeper vulnerability to slip through. "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" shows off the wordplay McCartney favours--clever, simple and effective: "Sunday's on the phone to Monday,/ Tuesday's on the phone to me." The later poems reveal a more mature, sincere voice, distant from the quirky catching rhymes of "Ob-la-di Ob-la-da". "Standing Stone" unravels a strong, gutsy fable about a man using the power of imagination to fend off the enemy: He erects a standing stone, "a weathered finger to the sky" and learns to be "at peace with peace", watching a "blue sky laced with tight white webs;/ fields of high rye tickled skylarks,/ levitating stars." "Irish Language" boasts a rare streak of irony as the narrator admires the way "those Irish chappies" swill the language round their mouths and dribble it through their fingers, ending with the beautifully timed punch line: "The Beatles were a bunch of Micks". The book closes with poems dedicated to his late wife which are tender, sparse and reach for a startling honesty:
"clenched inside a glove--Cherry Smyth
each other's energy