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Flickering Star

Robert Crawford: Iain Crichton Smith

21 January 1999
TheLeaf and the Marble 
by Iain Crichton Smith.
Carcanet, 80 pp., £6.95, October 1998, 1 85754 400 5
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... cheese. A conversation between a wellington and a herring. A conversation between fresh butter and a cup. In the 18 miniatures of this sequence, making up just over one hundred and fifty words, IainCrichtonSmith gives us a picture of the world he came from. His deployment of a fishing-boat name, The Golden Rose, suggests a milieu with its own sense of splendour, offsetting rigid ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945

1 April 1999
The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... in its original Welsh, Irish or Scottish Gaelic, accompanied by parallel English translations. O’Brien is more Anglocentric: Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill is in facing-page English, but Sorley MacLean and IainCrichtonSmith, for example, occur only in English, and there is no Welsh-language poetry at all. On the other hand, O’Brien’s selection of English-language poetry casts a wider and more ...
9 July 1992
Devolving English Literature 
by Robert Crawford.
Oxford, 320 pp., £35, June 1992, 9780198112983
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The Faber Book of 20th-Century Scottish Poetry 
edited by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 424 pp., £17.50, July 1992, 9780571154319
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... and Bunting made. Douglas Dunn, whose anthology is blessedly free of the prejudices that constrict Crawford, allows Graham 20 pages (as against 35 for MacDiarmid, 22 for Robert Garioch, 21 for IainCrichtonSmith), and in his fair-minded Introduction Dunn painfully acknowledges why Graham is little honoured in Scotland: ‘he lived furth of Scotland for most of his adult life, and loved Cornwall. His ...

Speaking in Tongues

Robert Crawford

8 February 1996
The Poetry of Scotland: Gaelic, Scots and English 1380-1980 
edited and introduced by Roderick Watson.
Edinburgh, 752 pp., £19.95, May 1995, 0 7486 0607 6
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... Will he allow Sorley MacLean’s voice to accompany MacDiarmid’s? To the best of my knowledge, nobody has been asked to do a new Oxford anthology, though the youngest poet in their extant volume, IainCrichtonSmith, is now a sprightly 68. Watson’s model is not the Oxford or the Penguin, but Hugh MacDiarmid’s Golden Treasury of Scottish Poetry, first published in 1940 and reissued by Canongate ...
6 November 1986
... information that accumulates at the back of the literary mind like respected, unread books on the bookshelf. But then, in the early Seventies, two things occurred which made the spark jump: I read IainCrichtonSmith’s translations, Poems to Eimhir, and I heard MacLean himself read his own poems in the original Gaelic. To take the translations first, since they were my first exposure: opening the ...

Dialect with Army and Navy

David Wheatley: Douglas Dunn and Politovsky

21 June 2001
The Donkey’s Ears: Politovsky’s Letters Home 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 176 pp., £7.99, May 2000, 0 571 20426 0
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The Year's Afternoon 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 81 pp., £7.99, October 2000, 0 571 20427 9
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... a book whose title Larkin, by then a little deaf, misheard as ‘Librarians’, complimenting him on his choice). Finding the politics of that book layered on too thickly, the American poet Dave Smith described the effect in terms strangely reminiscent of life on board the Suvorov: ‘a show of skills which has, too often, the feel of trial military manoeuvres with no apparent enemy’. But in ...
5 March 1981
Precipitous City 
by Trevor Royle.
Mainstream, 210 pp., £6.95, May 1980, 0 906391 09 1
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RLS: A Life Study 
by Jenni Calder.
Hamish Hamilton, 362 pp., £9.95, June 1980, 0 241 10374 6
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Gillespie 
by J. MacDougall Hay.
Canongate, 450 pp., £4.95, November 1979, 0 903937 79 4
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Scottish Satirical Verse 
edited by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 236 pp., £6.95, June 1980, 0 85635 183 0
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Collected Poems 
by Robert Garioch.
Carcanet, 208 pp., £3.95, July 1980, 0 85635 316 7
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... Thriftless, because ye try to dash             Like your superiors; Come hither, till I lay the lash             To your posteriors. Norman MacCaig, George Mackay Brown and IainCrichtonSmith appear in Morgan’s anthology, but they are not at their best. Perhaps the only real satirist among contemporary Scottish poets is Robert Garioch. Influenced by Robert Fergusson, by ...

England’s End

Peter Campbell

7 June 1984
English Journey 
by J.B. Priestley.
Heinemann, 320 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 0 434 60371 6
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English Journey, or The Road to Milton Keynes 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth/BBC, 158 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 563 20299 8
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Crisis and Conservation: Conflict in the British Countryside 
by Charlie Pye-Smith and Chris Rose.
Penguin, 213 pp., £3.95, March 1984, 0 14 022437 8
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Invisible Country: A Journey through Scotland 
by James Campbell.
Weidenfeld, 164 pp., £8.95, April 1984, 0 297 78371 8
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Literary Britain 
by Bill Brandt.
Victoria and Albert Museum in association with Hurtwood Press, 184 pp., £8.95, March 1984, 0 905209 66 4
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... one kind of grass, not left to support a variety of herbage – has reached the point where the weeds and vermin need more protection than the flocks and crops. In Crisis and Conservation Charlie Pye-Smith and Chris Rose marshal such arguments. The one characteristic which measures aesthetic and ecological value objectively is complication. The greater the number of species, and the greater the variety ...

Ten Poets

Denis Donoghue

7 November 1985
Selected Poems 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 124 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 9780856355950
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Collected Poems: 1947-1980 
by Allen Ginsberg.
Viking, 837 pp., £16.95, April 1985, 0 670 80683 8
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Instant Chronicles: A Life 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 58 pp., £4.50, April 1985, 9780019211970
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Selected Poems 
by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 139 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 596 8
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Selected Poems 
by Jeffrey Wainwright.
Carcanet, 79 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 598 4
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Selected Poems 
by Gillian Clarke.
Carcanet, 112 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 594 1
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The Price of Stone 
by Richard Murphy.
Faber, 92 pp., £4, May 1985, 0 571 13568 4
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Selected Poems 
by Iain Crichton Smith.
Carcanet, 121 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 597 6
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Selected Poems 
by Sylvia Townsend Warner.
Carcanet, 95 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 585 2
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From the Irish 
by James Simmons.
Blackstaff, 78 pp., £3.95, May 1985, 0 85640 331 8
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... round with love’ – rooms for comfort, and the mother’s exhausted body to be restored. Appropriately, a touching poem ends with the word ‘touch’ which, even more than seeing, is believing. IainCrichtonSmith’s Selected Poems is a volume too slim to give more than glancing impressions of his career. It suggests enough variety of theme – there are poems about Lenin, Aberdeen, Freud, Miss ...

The Excursions

Andrew O’Hagan

16 June 2011
... a city poet. It must have been odd for him to have found himself in his youth among a generation of thrawn poets with their country expansiveness: I’m thinking of Norman MacCaig in his Assynt mode; IainCrichtonSmith of the Highlands; George Mackay Brown in his Orkney remoteness; and Hugh MacDiarmid, always in among the fields and dykes, metaphysical or real. None of these men gave much quarter ...

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