Robert Crawford

Robert Crawford was Bishop Wardlaw Professor of Poetry at St Andrews until 2020. He is the author of Young Eliot, Eliot after ‘The Waste Land’, The Bard: Robert Burns, a Biography and Bannockburns: Scottish Independence and Literary Imagination, 1314-2014, as well as several collections of poems, including A Scottish Assembly, Full Volume and Testament.

for Alice

Thus all the books on any given subject are found standing together, and no additions or changes ever separate them.

Melvil Dewey, A Classification and Subject Index for Cataloguing and Arranging the Books and Pamphlets of a Library


Formal PeopleWaitressing for GodotGirl with Green ThighsA Farewell to Armagh


A Drunk Man Licks at the ThistleTed GauntletSunset SnogFife: A...

Peerie Breeks: Willa and Edwin Muir

Robert Crawford, 21 September 2023

‘Iwas born before the Industrial Revolution,’ Edwin Muir wrote in The Story and the Fable (1940),

and am now about two hundred years old. But I have skipped a hundred and fifty of them. I was really born in 1737, and till I was fourteen no time-accidents happened to me. Then in 1751 I set out from Orkney for Glasgow. When I arrived I found that it was not 1751, but 1901, and that a...

Outbreaks of Poets

Robert Crawford, 15 June 2023

When​ I was young I thought poetry and poetry anthologies could change the world. ‘If a man were permitted to make all the ballads,’ Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun wrote, ‘he need not care who should make the laws of a nation.’ But nationality still mattered: Seamus Heaney’s reaction to his inclusion in Blake Morrison and Andrew Motion’s 1982 Penguin Book of...

Poem: ‘Tank’

Robert Crawford, 21 July 2022

Age: 22. Time: after 2. RumblingOn western skyline, barrage, tangled tracks, trucks,Jeeps, flags, signposts, dust, oily rags, lorries tumblingOver dark crests, pulverised surface almost liquid, like sticky,Gritty faeces. Men knee-deep in it, goggled facesLost under thick, off-white masks, swigging from hip flasks.

animula blandula vagula

Inside a wide, bucking two-ton, we’re thrownAgainst...

In a Tuft of Thistle: Borges is Coming

Robert Crawford, 16 December 2021

JorgeLuis Borges’s visit to the Home of Golf in 1971 is still remembered. Edwin Williamson devotes a page of his 2004 biography to the event, calling attention to Borges’s wish to recite Scottish Border ballads while in St Andrews, and to stand alone beside the North Sea. Not long before, the 71-year-old Borges had published a story called ‘The Congress’ which, as...

Things Ill-Done and Undone: T.S. Eliot’s Alibis

Helen Thaventhiran, 8 September 2022

Sounding out phrases in letters as well as in verse kept things going for T.S. Eliot: he needed a low level of compositional hum. Like a secular spiritual exercise, the letters to Emily Hale sustained...

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Smiles Better: Glasgow v. Edinburgh

Andrew O’Hagan, 23 May 2013

Can places, like people, have a personality, a set of things you can love or not love? Do countries speak? Do lakes and mountains offer a guide to living? Could you feel let down by a city? Can...

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How Does It Add Up? The Burns Cult

Neal Ascherson, 12 March 2009

The late Bernard Crick, who had a fine and memorable funeral in Edinburgh the other day, left a legacy of sharp opinions behind him. Among the least popular was his opinion of the British...

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Robert Fergusson died in Edinburgh’s Bedlam on 17 October 1774. He was 24 years old. He had been admitted to the asylum three months before, against his will, because his mother could no...

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Anthologies are powerful things: movements are launched, periods are parcelled up, writers are made and broken. They are, or want to be, the book world’s performative utterances: defining...

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Until recently, the notion that the academic subject called ‘English’ had any sort of history would have seemed rather odd. Hadn’t it always just, well, existed? Surely, at his...

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Scots wha hae gone to England

Donald Davie, 9 July 1992

In books that go on about how the English have imposed their language and their manners on other English-speaking nations (Australian, Canadian, Scottish and Welsh and Irish, others), what is...

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Two Americas and a Scotland

Nicholas Everett, 27 September 1990

Whether in person or in print, self-consciousness is unsettling. Self-conscious writers, like self-conscious speakers, can’t help betraying that they’re more concerned with their...

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Feast of St Thomas

Frank Kermode, 29 September 1988

‘The idea that Eliot’s poetry was rooted in private aspects of his life has now been accepted,’ says Lyndall Gordon in the Foreword to her second volume of biographical rooting...

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