Influence for the good

5th July 1996 at 01:00
The deaths of Tom Scott, Norman MacCaig and George Mackay Brown have cast a shade over Scottish poetry, but their formidable influence remains.

MacCaig's inspirating presence is caught in Norman MacCaig: A Celebration (Chapman Pounds 8) with 89 contributors including Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney and poet laureate Ted Hughes. The robust Scots of Tom Scott influences Sheena Blackhall's Stagwyse (Charles Murray Trust Pounds 10.50), W N Herbert's Cabaret McGonagall (Bloodaxe Pounds 7.95) and the many contributors to Mak it New, edited by Neil MacCallum and David Purves (Mercat Press Pounds 9.99). A complementary passion fuses the Doric of Flora Garry's Collected Poems (Gordon Wright Pounds 7.95) and Purves's own Herts Bluid (Chapman Pounds 5.95).

George Mackay Brown's lucid narrative power finds an echo in Tom Pow's impressive and compact third collection, Red Letter Day (Bloodaxe Pounds 7.95) and - new name to me - Sean Rafferty: Collected Poems (Carcanet Pounds 12.95). Rafferty (1909-1993) born in Dumfries is a writer of deceptively simple skills. Clear sighted about literature's limitations he enlarges its dimensions.

Welcome evidence of eclectism, now in paperback, lies in W S Graham: Collected Poems (Faber Pounds 9.99) and Edwin Morgan: Collected Poems (Carcanet Pounds 14.95). Also recommended is Wood Notes Wild, edited by Alec Finlay (Polygon Pounds 11) a series of essays on his father with an informative introduction by Duncan Macmillan. Taranis, allied to Glasgow's West Coast Magazine, deliberately promotes the new. Latest titles (all Pounds 5.99) are Bobbie Christie: Transit Visa: N.W. Africa, Alison Prince: Having Been in the City and Magi Gibson: Kicking Back. Gibson is funny and wry, Prince reflective and wise, Christie defiant and demotic. All are worthy of exploring and encouraging.

Aberdeen-based Scottish Cultural Press has launched a poetry list (all Pounds 4.95). Recommended are Gerry Cambridge: The Shell House, Valerie Gillies: The Ringing Rock, Brian Johnstone: The Lizard Silence, Siusaidh NicNeill: All My Braided Colours.

Winter saw the appearance from Bloodaxe of Ron Butlin's Histories of Desire and Stewart Conn's superb In The Blood (both Pounds 6.95). Butlin's work has an intriguing stillness. He travels widely, figuratively and imaginatively. The elegies for his mother are emotional cairns. Conn is in confident, beguiling form. He responds rather than reacts. The poems set in Ayrshire slope into, rather than mount the mind. Instants are caught with rather than in tranquillity. His tryst with his reader is pleasurable rather than sensational.

From Cape come Robert Crawford: Masculinity and John Burnside The Myth of The Twin (both Pounds 7). This third collection concludes with poems on parenthood that are hymns to creativity. Crawford also edits an important collection of interviews, Talking Verse (St Andrews Pounds 10).

Burnside's fourth epiphany on the quiet side of moonlight is marvellous. It resurrects belief beyond religion. The poet-persona in Lapsed "cling(s) to the relics I findin water and loam". Truths become echoes of precise observations.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today