Carol Ann Duffy was born in 1955 in Glasgow. She achieved the distinguished (though she might well argue the word!) position of poet laureate in 2009 – the first time this title had been given to a Scot or a woman. She has a passion for language, for honesty about life and living and being. I saw her perform at the Nairn Book & Arts Festival – she involved a musician who had worked with her earlier in the day with schools in her performance. She was a confident and consummate performer, a storyteller weaving her poems into a larger narrative, from myth to laughter to deeply personal experience.
Edwin Muir (1887-1959) was born in the Orkney Islands, moving to Glasgow aged 14. He was later to travel widely, appreciating the literary openness of London but also exploring several European cities. He also served a term as an English literature professor at Harvard. The first poem of Muir’s I read was “The Horses”. The poem explores a post-apocalyptic landscape which welcomes the horses of the title as both old souls and heralds of a new world. Muir undertook Jungian analysis to help him untangle some of the knots his life had woven, and the fruits of this process can be seen in his autobiography. The book is both reflective and analytic, stating and questioning truth and memory, with evocative descriptions of his early life.
Iain Crichton Smith (1928-1998) was born in Glasgow, but moved to Lewis soon after. Gaelic thus became his primary language, but as he started to move towards poetry he chose, as had Muir before him, to write in English, not in the language/dialect of his upbringing. In 1999 his poem “The Beginning Of A New Song” was recited by Tom Fleming at the opening of the Scottish Parliament.
Marjory Fleming (1803-1811) died aged 8. She came from Kirkaldy and during the short span of her life wrote a journal/diary and poems. Interest in her work includes a book about Marjory Fleming by Oriel Malet (2000) and a recording of her work by poetryanimations “Journal of a girl poet aged 8” (on You Tube).
The above are just a fraction of the many and rich poets who people Scotland’s heritage. The country and the landscape lend themselves to imagination, writing, introspection, reflection and poems which are appreciated long after their authors have gone.