The mighty but humble MacCaig

I love poetry, and I’ve always loved poetry. My unerdgraduate dissertation was on the  work of the franco-scottish poet Kenneth White, whom I researched, met, spent lots of time with and grew to deeply appreciate. We always celebrate Burns’ night in our house; usually with a fairly raucous Burns’ supper – with a twist. Because a few of our friends are English we widen the poetry scope for the evening and everyone brings their favourite poem, and shares it. I have ofter relied on Lochead, Morgan, MacCaig  and Douglas Dunn for these evenings. Mostly Morgan ( The Apple Song is one of my favourites – good for these sort of nights!) sometimes Brian Patten and McGough, but among all of these , MacCaig stands like a giant for me. His subtlety and elegance and the way he distills language and thought to perfect formed droplets of beauty, shining like smiles, just totally enchants me.

I met him a couple of time as a student, working in a bookshop, and I  wish I’d known then just how lucky  I was. He was one the most utterly modest, charming, affable, humble, respectful, entertaining and all round  lovely chaps – I wish Burns had been a bit more like him, not that I knew Burns of course.But I do wonder  – you write one funny poem about some staple food of the day and you become a world-wide star. You get celebrated year on year across the globe. Australians organise social clubs to remember and honour you.  But do the poems measure up to the mighty MacCaig?  We talk about Burns’ humanity; A Man’s A Man for A’ That rings out with spirited, generous, brotherly compassion, but did he have as much respect for his own wife?( ooh controversial? maybe!). Compare to MacCaig: a quiet man; a kindly gentle person,  respectful and appreciative of the world he inhabited and the people in it. Our friends knew little of MacCaig when they first started coming to our Burns nights, but slowly and surely they too have been captured by his quiet and subtle charm. Some of us on twitter have been talking about a MacCaig evening – let’s celebrate MacCaig – it’s the least he deserves! Let me share with you one of my favourites by him, written  in honour of another giant of our shores – Hugh MacDiarmid ( I share a birthday with him and named my son after him – Diarmid).

After his death

It turned out/that the bombs he had thrown/raised buildings:

that the acid he had sprayed/had painfully opened/they eyes of the blind

Fishermen hauled/prizewinning fish/from the waters he had polluted

We sat with astonishment/enjoying the shade/of the victorious words he had planted.

The government decreed that/on the anniversary of his birth/the people should observe/two minutes pandemonium.


About catrionao

I'm a lecturer at UWS and a PhD student at Stirling University, studying a school based practice of teacher professional learning.
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3 Responses to The mighty but humble MacCaig

  1. What a great post Catriona! I thoroughly enjoyed reading that… I might have to make sure I come back to your blog! 😉


  2. teachtechy says:

    Interesting post, certainly two diverse characters -MacCaig and Burns – I love the Excise Man song at the skl Supper, by kids. HMIe were at ours last week.

  3. chris says:

    Lovely post – and I’m glad the idea came to fruition last night! BTW – Kenneth White lectured to my Ordinary (very!) French class on Les Mains Sales; I think I’d cope much better now. What is it they say about education and the young …?

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