April 24, 2014

Subscriber Login

Online Subscription

Online Subscription Options

Serpents of Wisdom: The Poetry of Norman MacCaig

There is wildness in Norman MacCaig's poetry. Not just his poems describing the untamed western Highlands of Scotland, but those that are set in the Edinburgh University Staff Club. Seamus Heaney says of MacCaig, "His poems are discovered in flight, migratory, wheeling, and calling. Everything is in a state of restless becoming." (From Roderick Watson's "Introduction" to The Many Days: Selected Poems of Norman MacCaig [Edinburgh: Polygon, 2010]).

It is hard for me to believe, but I only discovered MacCaig this past summer - and that was by accident. I was, in fact, looking for another poet in the bookshop in Oban, Scotland. I had just come across a brilliant poem by Hugh MacDiarmid and wanted to read more. The bookshop didn't have any MacDiarmid, but they did have a pretty good poetry section - a rarity in bookshops these days. Working my way through the shelves, I came across MacCaig's collection, The Many Days. Scanning the verses, I was immediately drawn in. Serendipitously, the volume includes two poems MacCaig wrote about MacDiarmid, the second of which is titled, "After his death." The poem ends with these delightful lines: