When Iain Banks died of cancer last June at the cruelly young age of 59, it was widely assumed that The Quarry – the novel whose first reviews started to appear on the day of his death – would be his last published work. This past weekend, however, on what would have been Banks’ 60th birthday, his long-time publisher Little, Brown announced that it will publish a book of Banks’ poetry – much of it never before published, much less collected – in February of 2015. The book will also feature work by Banks’ close friend Ken MacLeod – himself an author – who will serve as the collection’s editor. MacLeod says ‘I’m delighted that Little, Brown is going to publish Iain’s poems, which he wrote over many years. They show a wise and witty mind at work, rational and humane and in love with the world.’ No different from the rest of Banks’ corpus, then.
Banks wrote 27 novels over a span of 30 years – 13 of them sci-fi under the added initial of Iain M. Banks – along with The State of the Art, a book of short stories set in the science-fiction world of the Culture, and Raw Spirit, a work of non-fiction predicated upon his love of whisky. For all his prolificacy across genres and forms, however, Banks was never known as a poet, bar the odd foray here and there – self-penned epigrams introducing or concluding novels, for instance, or his admission that his apocalyptic novel A Song of Stone originally started life as a poem (which, to editorialise briefly, might explain why it’s arguably his least successful piece of prose). Banks did express hope, though, that his poetry might someday see the light of day, so hopefully the results will be more than a posthumous cash-in on material that was never intended for public consumption, and won’t prove to be a blemish on his formidable form as a novelist.