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Smokejumpers

Chauncey Loomis

10 March 1994
Young Men and Fire 
by Norman Maclean.
Chicago, 301 pp., £8.75, October 1993, 0 226 50062 4
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... NormanMaclean was born in western Montana in 1902. There landscapes are elemental: earth, air, water and sometimes fire are distinct and imposing presences. It’s mainly open country, with high mountains but also ...
6 November 1986
... It is often late, by chance, and with sudden delight, that we find those poets who later become vital to us. I knew Sorley MacLean by reputation before I felt his authority. His renovation of a poetic tradition, his cross-fertilisation of love and politics, of metaphysical technique and traditional Gaelic modes, of dan direach ...

Voices

Seamus Deane

21 April 1983
The Pleasures of Gaelic Poetry 
edited by Sean Mac Reamoinn.
Allen Lane, 272 pp., £8.95, November 1982, 0 7139 1284 7
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... how it can communicate ‘Little jabs of delight in the elemental’ and distinguishes this from the effect of the bulk (not all) of English verse. ‘It almost seems,’ he says, ‘that since the Norman conquest, the temperature of the English language has been subtly raised by a warm front coming up from the Mediterranean.’ Thus for him, and for most of the other contributors, the infusion of ...

Smiles Better

Andrew O’Hagan: Glasgow v. Edinburgh

23 May 2013
On Glasgow and Edinburgh 
by Robert Crawford.
Harvard, 345 pp., £20, February 2013, 978 0 674 04888 1
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... thee worship, Scotland, New Zealand, all national dots. Not all poets love places. And not many poets love cities the way Frank O’Hara loved New York. Crawford, like his nearest literary forebear Norman MacCaig, loves places both rural and urban: in his work, he can throw his voice ‘deep down the larynx of Glen Esk’, and he can marry Iona, or bring the reader into close contact with his ‘Inner ...

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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... fifties, but between its clutch of elegies and morosely ruminated poems of divorce, illness and solitude, an air of premature senescence hangs over The Year’s Afternoon. ‘Three Poets’ elegises Norman MacCaig, Sorley MacLean and George Mackay Brown, a list to which he has added Iain Crichton Smith in the dedication of One Hundred 20th-Century Scottish Poems (2000), a sampler from his earlier Faber ...

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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... of poetry 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 Iain Crichton Smith, 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 ...

Losers

Ross McKibbin

23 October 1986
The Politics of the UCS Work-In: Class Alliances and the Right to Work 
by John Foster and Charles Woolfson.
Lawrence and Wishart, 446 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 85315 663 8
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A Lost Left: Three Studies in Socialism and Nationalism 
by David Howell.
Manchester, 351 pp., £29.95, July 1986, 0 7190 1959 1
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The Miners’ Strike 1984-5: Loss without Limit 
by Martin Adeney and John Lloyd.
Routledge, 319 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 7102 0694 1
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Red Hill: A Mining Community 
by Tony Parker.
Heinemann, 196 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 434 57771 5
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Strike Free: New Industrial Relations in Britain 
by Philip Bassett.
Macmillan, 197 pp., £10.95, August 1986, 9780333418000
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... has tried to answer the question by an examination of the careers of three men whom history has marginalised: James Connolly, Irish socialist executed for his part in the Easter Rebellion, John Maclean, idiosyncratic Scottish revolutionary socialist, and John Wheatley, an ILP’er from Glasgow and Minister of Health in the first Labour government. Like Foster and Woolfson, Howell is concerned with ...
10 November 1988
MacDiarmid 
by Alan Bold.
Murray, 482 pp., £17.95, September 1988, 0 7195 4585 4
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A Drunk Man looks at the Thistle 
by Hugh MacDiarmid, edited by Kenneth Buthlay.
Scottish Academic Press, 203 pp., £12.50, February 1988, 0 7073 0425 3
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The Hugh MacDiarmid-George Ogilvie Letters 
edited by Catherine Kerrigan.
Aberdeen University Press, 156 pp., £24.90, August 1988, 0 08 036409 8
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Hugh MacDiarmid and the Russian 
by Peter McCarey.
Scottish Academic Press, 225 pp., £12.50, March 1988, 0 7073 0526 8
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... In this first (and authorised) critical biography Bold has done important work in assembling details of Grieve’s early life, so that we see, not only Grieve the friend of Red Clydesiders John MacLean and James Maxton, but also the Grieve whose Scottish nationalism was encouraged by his rejection by English girls. Heady on his home-brew of Nietzsche, John Davidson, and almost any other literary ...
25 June 1987
... book, both entertaining and informative, looks back over a lifetime of abrupt, unforeseeable changes of outlook. Then there have been three books concerned with another Canadian of our time, Herbert Norman, a Cambridge Communist who turned into a respected member of his country’s diplomatic service, was hunted by the Cold War pack, and ended, a suicide, at Cairo. He has become something of a symbol ...
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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... text is more dated than he allows for, but it was brave of him to reprint it.) As for Dunn’s even-handedness, consider his verdict on a disagreement between two Gaelic poets of our time, Sorley MacLean and Iain Crichton Smith, about a Gaelic poet of long ago, Rob Dunn (d. 1778). Judging from the poems in the anthology translated by themselves, I will trust MacLean’s opinion over Smith’s. But ...

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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... had Tom Scott edit their Scottish anthology (published in 1970) again there was no Gaelic. Recently, Penguin have commissioned Mick Imlah to edit a new Scottish anthology. 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, Iain Crichton Smith, is now a ...

Subversions

R.W. Johnson

4 June 1987
Traitors: The Labyrinths of Treason 
by Chapman Pincher.
Sidgwick, 346 pp., £13.95, May 1987, 0 283 99379 0
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The Secrets of the Service: British Intelligence and Communist Subversion 1939-51 
by Anthony Glees.
Cape, 447 pp., £18, May 1987, 0 224 02252 0
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Freedom of Information – Freedom of the Individual? 
by Clive Ponting, John Ranelagh, Michael Zander and Simon Lee, edited by Julia Neuberger.
Macmillan, 110 pp., £4.95, May 1987, 0 333 44771 9
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... British attitudes to the intelligence services are governed by two separate obsessions. The discovery of Maclean, Burgess, Philby and Blunt as Soviet agents has produced a long-lasting preoccupation with hunting down moles, ‘agents of influence’ and the like. Newspapers love it, the public are interested ...
25 June 1987
Klaus Fuchs: The man who stole the atom bomb 
by Norman​ Moss.
Grafton, 216 pp., £12.95, April 1987, 0 246 13158 6
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... to 14 years’ imprisonment. What he told the Russians was never revealed and is still classified information here (lest the Russians get to know of it?), but the British told the Americans and Norman Moss found full details in their FBI files. Klaus Fuchs was born in 1911, the son of a German pastor with left-wing sympathies who taught his children the Lutheran precept of acting according to ...

Misbehavin’

Susannah Clapp

23 July 1987
A Life with Alan: The Diary of A.J.P. Taylor’s Wife, Eva, from 1978 to 1985 
by Eva Haraszti Taylor.
Hamish Hamilton, 250 pp., £14.95, June 1987, 0 241 12118 3
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The Painted Banquet: My Life and Loves 
by Jocelyn Rickards.
Weidenfeld, 172 pp., £14.95, May 1987, 0 297 79119 2
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The Beaverbrook Girl 
by Janet Aitken Kidd.
Collins, 240 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 00 217602 5
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... he wanted to see how I dealt with the discarded leaves’. A few months later they were spending most of their evenings at the Gargoyle Club, dancing to ‘Oh, you beautiful doll’ while Donald Maclean got drunk. They had, she says, some ‘idyllic years’ together, though the man Cyril Connolly called ‘the London Freddyair’ had his glum moments, waking his partner as he sang in his sleep ‘I ...

The Excursions

Andrew O’Hagan

16 June 2011
... Eddie was a city man. He was 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; Iain Crichton Smith of the Highlands; George Mackay Brown in his Orkney remoteness; and Hugh MacDiarmid, always in among the fields and dykes, metaphysical or real. None ...

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