(1910-1996)

Norman MacCaig

'half my thought and half my blood is Scalpay'
('Return to Scalpay')

Norman MacCaig's poems are imbued with the telling intimacy that only a master miniaturist can command. Every fastidiously chosen word contributes to the lucidity of expression that is his hallmark. Whether inspired by the landscape of Assynt in Sutherland, his home city of Edinburgh, or by friends or acquaintances, his poems are highly particular in focus, and all the more resonant for that. His mother, a Gaelic-speaker from Scalpay in Harris, used English with a freshness that opened up the potential of language to her son. The first poem he wrote was as a pupil at the Royal High School: given the choice between writing a poem or an essay, he went for the shorter option. After the Second World War, during which he was a conscientious objector, he became a primary school teacher. MacCaig's poetic identity emerged with the publication of his third collection, 'Riding Lights' (1955), and his lyric power can be fully appreciated in his 'Collected Poems' (1985), which excluded his first published work, 'Far Cry' (1943), and 'The Inward Eye' (1946), which he had disowned.

Norman MacCaig

Norman MacCaig, Edinburgh, 1970s.

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