Last night at the Poetry Association Scotland, Colin Nicholson, Professor of 18th Century and Modern Literature at Edinburgh University, spoke about visions of a new Scotland in Scottish poetry. He used as his starting point Donny O'Rourkes anthology 'Dream States' as a starting point but then worked backwards to look at how poets of the 1960s were already envisioning a new Scotland in their work.
He then looked at some specific poems from Norman MacCaig, George Mackay Brown and Edwin Morgan. His close reading of their poems was more succinct, more revealing and more enlightening than the close readings Ruth Padel makes in her book 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem (which I reviewed over on Read Write Poem here). He read from MacCaig's long poem An Assynt Man, with its meditation on the Highland Clearances and the intimate relationship between people and landscape:
remembers with certainty that the tide will return
and thinks with hope, that that other ebb,
that sad withdrawal of people may, too
reverse itself and flood
Professor Nicholson also read George MacKay Brown's Building the Ship with its well observed descriptions of landscape -
Dunes were pale with strewment of boards
and ended with reading from Edwin Morgan, who in my mind, and to many others, is consistently the most interesting and imaginative poet in Scotland and possibly in the whole English speaking poetry world. His Glasgow sonnets use the high craft of the Petrarchan sonnets to emphasise the poverty of certain scenes in Glasgow, Scotland's biggest city.