The Scottish author revealed in his final interview before his death from cancer last week that he had hoped to secure a publisher for an anthology of 50 poems as part of a “bucket list” of things he wanted to do before he died.
Banks, who had 29 books published in his lifetime, last had a standalone poem printed 30 years ago, in the first edition of New Writing Scotland, an annual anthology of poetry created by the Association for Scottish Literary Studies. It was his first published work.
The poem – entitled 041 in reference to the old Glasgow telephone code and detailing a phone call with his faraway “lady” – nestles in the anthology alongside poems written by other now-well known Scots authors such as Robert Crawford.
Selected by a team of literary experts including former Makar Edwin Morgan, the poem was printed in 1983, a year before the publication of Banks’s first novel, The Wasp Factory.
Banks said: “The poems are a part of the desperate urge to get things that were supposed to be long-term projects out the way. I’m going to see if I can get a book of poetry published before I kick the bucket. I’ve got about 50 I’m proud of.”
He said he had hoped to work on the book with fellow science-fiction writer and childhood friend Ken Mac-Leod. Banks’s final novel The Quarry is due to be published next week.
“I’ve been trying to convince Ken MacLeod that he should come in with me on this, as I’ve always loved Ken’s poetry,” he said. “That, and it gives me cover. It stops the book being what it really is, which is a bit of a vanity project. We’ll see if it happens; I just don’t know. I think my poetry’s great but then I would, wouldn’t I?
But whether any respectable publisher will think so, that’s another matter. I’ll self-publish if I have to; sometimes I have no shame.”
No poetry has been published by Banks since 1983, although poems top and tail the story in his novel Use Of Weapons.
The author also revealed that A Song Of Stone, which details an aristocrat’s experience of civil war, was also originally written in poetry form, running to 150 pages.
“Like many of us, he started out a poet,” said close friend and novelist Ian Rankin, “Muriel Spark did the same, though, as with Iain, it’s the prose we’ll remember.”
He added: “I’d be curious to see more of his poems.”
Duncan Jones, director at the Association for Scottish Literary Studies, said: “He was not known as a poet, despite his first published work being a poem in our anthology. However, his work at times was very poetic and I would be surprised if he hasn’t produced some extremely good poetry.”
The author revealed in the interview last month that he also wanted to find a way to distribute his music, and had even made tentative plans for the creation of the next instalment in his “Culture” series of novels – “just in case there’s some highly unlikely good news”.
Banks, who was 59 and suffering from cancer of the gall bladder, stunned fans when in April he published a statement on his website which began “I am officially very poorly.”