Identity Poetics

English 685/468 ~ Fall 2001 ~ Susan Tichy 

Week 9: Oct 22: Scots Poetry / Poetry in Scots

A language is a dialect with an army and a navy.
-- Max Weinreich

Please read my introduction to the Introduction to Scottish Poetry. 

Poems  ~ Secondary  ~ General Schedule  ~ Back to Week 8 ~ On to Week 10


Core Reading: Poems: Handed out in class:

Three poets of the first half of the 20th century, illustrating three approaches to the use of Scots (see my intro to Scottish poetry for context, particularly for MacDiarmid.  You will probably find MacDiarmid pretty hard going, so you may want to start with Soutar, then speak your way through Garioch. Another you should be able to sound out phonetically is Finlay, then maybe Vettese and Jamie. Crawford’s poems vary in their difficulty.

Hugh MacDiarmid (1892-1978): The Watergaw, The Eemis Stane, Scunner, Empty Vessel, excerpts from A Drunk Man Looks at a Thistle

William Soutar (1898-1943): Hungry Mauchs, The Makar

Robert Garioch (1909-1981): Heard in the Gardens (name pronounced Geary)

Another poet of the same generation, who registers his sense of homeland, history, and difference in
landscape and meditation rather than in language:

Norman MacCaig (1910-1996): Two Thieves, Notations of 10 Summer Minutes, Small Loch

Three more legends: an English-language poet whose work is a lifetime of meditation on language; a poet of endless play and invention who writes in both English and Scots and in both verse and concrete forms; and some early vernacular poems from a concrete poet best known for his engagement with neo-classicism, the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, landscape & seascape.

W.S. Graham (1918-1986): Baldy Bane, Constructed Space, The Beast in the Space, Note to the Difficult One 

Edwin Morgan (b.1920): The First Men on Mercury, Dialeck Piece, Archives, Opening the Cage, Canedolia (We'll read his Glasgow poems next week.)

Ian Hamilton Finlay (b.1925): from Glasgow Beasts An a Burd. (I’ll bring prints of some of Finlay’s concrete work to class.)

Some younger poets who write in both English and Scots: 

Kenneth White (b.1936): The House at the Head of the Tide
Ron Butlin (b.1949): Inheritance, Claiming My Inheritance
Alan Riach: A Short Introduction to My Uncle Glen (can’t find a birthdate; started publishing in 1990)
Gael Turnbull: There Are Words
Raymond Vettese (b.1950): My Carrion Words
W. N. Herbert (b.1961): Dingle Dell, Postcards of Scotland (we’ll read Herbert in Scots in two weeks)

Robert Crawford (b.1959): Scotland, A Scottish Assembly, Alba Einstein, Fur Thi Muse o Synthesis, Ghetto-Blastir, Prayer, Simultaneous Translation, Chevalier, Wha’s Like Us?, Radio Scottish Democracy

Kathleen Jamie (b.1962): Lucky Bag, Arraheids, Den of the Old Men, Xiahe, The Way We Live, Meadowsweet, The Graduates, On the Design of the New Scottish Parliament Building

Core: Interviews & Secondary:

COURSE WEB SITE: Instuctor’s “Introduction to Scottish Poetry”

BOUND COPY SHOP READER: Robert Crawford: “Home,” Identifying Poets pp 158-175. This is the concluding chapter of a book-long argument regarding poets of the 20th century who “identify” their work in and speak from a particular cultural and geographical location. The first sentence refers to the poets he has discussed at length prior to this chapter.

READER: A.J. Aitken, “A History of Scots.” Concise Scots Dictionary (This is not in the bound set of readings. It was copied separately and stapled to Brathwaite’s “ConVERSations.”) This will answer some of your basic questions about what Scots is -- and probably raise some new ones.

Additional Reading:

Robert Burns is the foundational poet of modern Scottish poetry in Scots and English. You can read some of his work on line at many sites. I recommend this one:

Poems and Songs of Robert Burns. Harvard Classics, Harvard UP, editions of 1909-1914.
Representative Books on Line. http://www.bartleby, com/6/indexl.html
Please read: #57 Holy Willie’s Prayer, #76 Jolly Beggars: A Cantata, #80 For A’ That, #81 Address to the Deil, #99 To a Louse.

Interview with Edwin Morgan: <>

Reserve Desk:

Douglas Dunn, ed: Faber Book of 20th Century Scottish Poetry. Both the anthology and the introduction are excellent.

Robert Crawford:  Identifying Poets

Daniel O'ROurke, ed: Dream State: The New Scottish Poets 

Poems  ~ Secondary  ~ General Schedule  ~ Back to Week 8 ~ On to Week 10