The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English

By Ian Hamilton | Go to book overview

L

LAING, Kojo ( 1946- ) was born in Kumasi, Ghana. After taking an MA at Glasgow University in 1968 he spent nine years in administrative positions in provincial Ghana, followed by a year in Accra. From 1980 to 1985 he was secretary to the institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana, and at present he is chief executive of a private school in Accra founded by his mother.

Laing describes his poetic medium as 'verbal fireworks'. One poem has a different poem inserted into it in single capitalized words every other line; another places the same five lines in a different order in each of its first three stanzas. His themes are unusually varied. 'The same corpse' is a robust satire on the corruption of Ghanaian society. 'Africa sky' is a lyrical mood piece. 'I am the freshly dead husband' is the quirky monologue of a dead man in his coffin, observing the false grief of his fashionable widow. In 'Funeral in Accra' clocks become 'anachronistic' and the deceased is sung 'slowly to death'. The relentless flow of witticism may irritate, but it can also seem imaginatively liberating.

Laing poetry is collected in Godhorse ( Oxford, 1989).

[ JB

Lallans. Other names for die language of Lowland Scotland have included Scots, Braid Scots, the Scots Vernacular, Aggrandized Scots, Synthetic Scots, and Plastic Scots. Doric, now seldom used, properly applies to the dialect of north-east Scotland, especially Aberdeenshire.

After the revival of poetry in Scots in the eighteenth-century, by Allan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson, Alexander Row, and Robert Burns, poetry continued to be written in Lallans, or Lallan as it was called by R. L. Stevenson, who can be credited with lending the term a new currency. Much of this subsequent verse rarely aspired to a level above that of dialect and the districts associated with it. Supernatural themes were especially common, in, for example, the poetry of Violet Jacob ( 1863-1946). Lewis ★Spence ( 1874-1955) introduced a diction with more historical resonance, harking back to the Scotland of the sixteenth century. More successful, however, were Sir Alexander Gray's ( 1882-1967) translations into Scots from Heine ( Songs and Ballads, Chiefly from Heine, 1920).

Christopher Murray Grieve, better known as Hugh ★MacDiarmid, published his first Scots lyrics in his collection Sangschaw in 1925. In such poems as 'The Bonnie Broukit Bairn'. 'The Watergaw', and 'The Eemis Stane,' he produced a startling modernity in terms Of imagery and psychology together with a strongly ancestral note conveyed by Scots diction. In editorials in his magazine The Scottish Chapbook (15 issues, 1922-3), MacDiarmid justified Scots in terms of modernity, psychology, and indigenousness. Equally important to him was the extent to which its 'speculative and imaginative tendencies' were superior to those of English, especially as used by 'Anglicized Scots'.

MacDiarmid's Scots, or Lallans, and that of writers after him, has been called Synthetic Scots. To some extent the phrase is an attempt to escape the belittling associations of dialect, but what it describes is the practice of using in the same poem words which originate from two or more districts. In recovering a language in which, MacDiarmid noted, there was embed

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The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Introduction v
  • Selection of Anthologies xi
  • Key to Contributors xiv
  • Alphabetical List of Contributors xvii
  • A 1
  • B 28
  • C 80
  • D 113
  • E 143
  • F 156
  • G 179
  • H 206
  • I 247
  • J 251
  • K 266
  • L 284
  • M 318
  • N 375
  • O 393
  • P 407
  • Q 436
  • R 437
  • S 468
  • T 533
  • U 555
  • V 557
  • W 562
  • Y 593
  • Z 599
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