Thursday, 6 November 2008

Scottish Poetry

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.


Anonymous said...

I love the passage from McCaig. Yes, humans and the land are wrapped around each other . . . . like lovers, really . . .. with just as many complexities . . . and constant ways to both hurt and nurture each other.

Your site looks fresher and more vibrant than ever, by the way.

d. moll, said...

Words are so amazing.

Anonymous said...

Delicious experience for you, J!
Thanks for sharing Scottish poetry with us. (I'm bookmarking these links so I can read them all.)

Gerald (Ackworth born) said...

Morgan, McCaig and Brown - indeed they probably are the best three Scottish poets ever.
The thing I love most about Edwin Morgan is his variety.

Janice Thomson said...

I most definitely enjoyed reading poems from the links. As always you enlighten we Westerners with wonderful info on other poets.

Susan Richardson said...

Sounds like a fascinating - and enriching - evening.

A Paperback Writer said...

Ah! So you met Nick, did you?
Isn't he wonderful?
I love Nick. He was my supervisor for my dissertation when I did my MSc at the Uni of Edinburgh. He was my best moral support system for the 5 months I volunteered at the Scottish Poetry Library to do the first catalog of their Edwin Morgan Archive. (I sorted through thousands of items, and typed up a 100 page, single-space catalog identifying each one. I also helped Robyn Marsack by writing letters to help get the funding to pay for the archive.)
Nick has the most wonderful reading voice. I hope you enjoyed it.
Did you know that he is considered THE authority on Edwin Morgan?
I'm a HUGE Morgan fan.
Thanks for posting this. I think I'll e-mail the link to Nick. He'll be pleased with what you thought of him.