The Correspondence between Hugh MacDiarmid and Sorley MacLean

The Correspondence between Hugh MacDiarmid and Sorley MacLean

The Correspondence between Hugh MacDiarmid and Sorley MacLean

The Correspondence between Hugh MacDiarmid and Sorley MacLean

Synopsis

This is the first complete annotated edition of the letters exchanged over nearly fifty years by these major twentieth-century Scottish poets. The lively exchanges reflect the influence of cultural nationalism on each writer's developing poetics, their work as translators, their literary collaboration, and their mutual influence on each other's careers.

Excerpt

Hugh MacDiarmid (11 August 1892–9 September 1978), born Christopher Murray Grieve, and Sorley MacLean/Somhairle MacGill-Eain (26 October 1911–24 November 1996) were arguably the most innovative and influential poets of twentieth-century Scotland. MacDiarmid came to be regarded as “the father of the modern Scottish imagination” (Ascherson 19), for “[o]ut of his forge came an energy which spread through Scottish cultural life. There is very little written, acted, composed, surmised, or demanded in Scotland which does not in some strand descend from the new beginning he made” (The Scotsman, quoted in Scott and Davis 12–13). in assessing his achievements, his biographer Alan Bold comments:

As a Scottish poet, animated by “a mystical sense/Of the high
destiny of a nation (…)”, he stands supreme. For linguistic ingenu
ity only Dunbar and Burns come near him and it must be remem
bered that MacDiarmid had to renew a tradition that his great
predecessors took for granted. Finding Scots reduced to a parochial
idiom suitable for isolated outbursts of sentimentality, he shook that
language to its linguistic roots and created, in a Drunk Man Looks
at the Thistle
, not only the most revolutionary work in Scots litera
ture, but one of the most powerfully imaginative achievements in
twentieth-century poetry. (MacDiarmid 435)

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