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Colin’s stories Monday, 25 January 2010

Posted by carryapoem in Stories.
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I carry a lot of poetry in my head – it’s the safest place to have it. If I had it in my wallet, I might be robbed; if it was in my pocket I might forget to take it out, and it could end up in the washing machine (like my hearing aid did recently).

Fragments of much-loved poems somehow stay intact and distinct in my memory. At any given moment I can recall them, and they each bring something special back into focus. Dipping and scooping, I retrieve Wallace Stevens’ ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking At a Blackbird’, Norman MacCaig’s ‘A Man in Assynt’, William Blake’s ‘The Sick Rose’, T S Eliot’s ‘Gerontion’, William Carlos Williams’ ‘Flowers By the Sea’, Dylan Thomas’s ‘Over Sir John’s Hill’, Paul Celan’s ‘Death Fugue’, and many more.

But the one which comes to mind more than most is Robert Frost’s ‘The Road Not Taken’. It’s a poem I’ve often read in workshops, and it seems to touch other people too. So I love for that reason. But it’s more for the personal relevance the poem has for me. So many times in my elongating life I’ve had to make choices – we all do – and Frost sets out the dilemma beautifully. Faced with two routes in life I’ve often taken “the one less travelled by”, and my life has been made immeasurably richer.

Colin Will is a poet, publisher, teacher and blogger.

Jenny’s Story: Alexander Gray’s ‘Scotland’ Monday, 25 January 2010

Posted by edincityoflit in Stories.
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How can I nominate just one favourite poem?  It depends on my mood.  Norman MacCaig, Robert Burns (especially Tam O’Shanter for a fine narrative poem), Iain Crichton Smith, John Betjeman, even a 4-liner I wrote for my children about warthogs, might all feature.  And where do I keep them?  Some in my head, some in my heart, some in my book shelves, some on my e-book reader.

If I can’t even have two, then I’ll discard Hugh MacDiarmid’s, “… little white rose of Scotland/That smells sharp and sweet – and breaks the heart.”. I’ll plump, not for the more commonly quoted fourth stanza, “This is my country,/The land that begat me. . .”, but for the evocative first verse of Alexander Gray’s ‘Scotland’, that always reminded me of home in the equally unforgiving parched landscape around me during my years in Africa:

Here in the Uplands

The soil is ungrateful;

The fields, red with sorrel,

Are stony and bare.

A few trees, wind-twisted –

Or are they but bushes? –

Stand stubbornly guarding

A home here and there.

Jenny Dawe is the Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council.

Andrew’s story: ‘Rich Day’ Thursday, 21 January 2010

Posted by carryapoem in Stories.
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I carry many fragments but only a few complete poems in my head. The most special is probably ‘Rich Day’ by Norman MacCaig. I first read it in the Weekend Scotsman c. 1968, and never forgot it. I formed an ambition to have a poem in the Scotsman, and this led to my concentrating on poetry. I told NM this in the Auld Toll Bar c. 1994, the last time we were out together. He said ‘I can’t remember that one. How does it go?’ I closed my eyes and mercifully was able to recite it back to him.

After a long pause he beamed ‘I like that! That’s quite good!’

The curious thing is it is not in the Collected Poems, though it’s one of his real good ‘uns. I still have the cutting somewhere. I must be one of the few people in the world to still have that poem. I tell this true story, at fuller length, to my fishing friends in my At the Loch of the Green Corrie, a book in memory of Norman and his friends and a fishing trip he asked me to make, due out in April 2010. The poem will also be printed (from my memory) there, putting it back in circulation!

Andrew Greig is a poet and a novelist. He has also edited the Scottish Poetry Library’s Best Scottish Poems online anthology for 2009.

BIOGRAPHY – NORMAN MACCAIG Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Posted by edincityoflit in Poets.
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Norman MacCaig was born in 1910 in Edinburgh, of a lowland father and a highland mother. Educated at the Royal High School and the University of Edinburgh, where he studied classics, he worked for many years as a primary school teacher.

For most of his life, MacCaig divided his time between Edinburgh and Assynt in the north-west Highlands: the landscape of the latter in particular is a recurring theme of his poetry. He died in Edinburgh in January 1996.

Find out more about Norman MacCaig through the Scottish Poetry Library’s Poets A-Z.