Speaking in Tongues

Robert Crawford

  • The Poetry of Scotland: Gaelic, Scots and English 1380-1980 edited and introduced by Roderick Watson
    Edinburgh, 752 pp, £19.95, May 1995, ISBN 0 7486 0607 6

No anthology offers us the full spectrum of Scottish poetry, but Roderick Watson’s comes closer than any other. This is the first big, general anthology to offer us work in Gaelic, Scots and English (note the word order) from the medieval period to the present. Catherine Kerrigan’s Anthology of Scottish Women Poets (1991), Douglas Dunn’s Faber Book of 20th-century Scottish Poetry (1992), and Daniel O’Rourke’s Dream State; The New Scottish Poets (1994) all offer work in the three languages, but, as their titles indicate, select from specific sectors of Scottish poetry. When we compare Watson’s volume with its main competitors, the Penguin and Oxford anthologies, it is clear not only that these are out of date, but that they are products of an age when cultural imperialism among publishers seems to have demanded the exclusion of Gaelic verse.

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