Contemporary British Poetry: Essays in Theory and Criticism

By James Acheson; Romana Huk | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THIRTEEN
From the Lost Ground:
Liz Lochhead,
Douglas Dunn, and
Contemporary Scottish Poetry

Cairns Craig


I

In his introduction to The Faber Book of Twentieth-Century Scottish Poetry, Douglas Dunn notes an oddity about the post-Second World War "generation" of Scottish poets—that it took a long time to come of age:

W. S. Graham published young, in 1942, but fifteen years were to elapse between The Nightfishing ... and Malcolm Mooney's Land ( 1970). Riding Lights ( 1955), which announced Norman MacCaig's first mature style, appeared when he was in his mid-forties. Edwin Morgan was around the same age when he re-invented his talent by writing the poems that appeared in The Second Life ( 1968). Bearing in mind Sorley MacLean's delayed reputation, and Robert Garioch's, and Derrick Thomson's—outside a handful of readers—the career pattern that seems to be revealed suggests that Scottish poetry underwent a difficult mid-century phase which subsequent success has tended to obscure. 1

That generation has proved to be one of the most powerful and fecund in Scottish literary history, for one can add to the names Dunn gives those of G. S. Fraser, Sidney Goodsir Smith, George Campbell Hay, Muriel Spark, Hamish Henderson, and George MacKay Brown: all born within three years

-343-

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