The generations

Several writers have commented that the death of Edwin Morgan marks the end of a generation of highly distinguished Scottish poets – Hugh MacDiarmid, Sorley MacLean, Norman MacCaig, Iain Crichton Smith, George Mackay Brown, and Eddie himself. Some of them were close friends, all knew each other, and some had more peripheral relationships. They were never a single group, a single movement. They wrote on different subjects, had different preoccupations and passions, and were stylistically as varied as their personalities. What united them, distinguished them, if you will, was the quality of their work, and the influences that high quality produced in the work of other poets writing at the same time, and on succeeding writers.

My question then is: is there a new generation to follow on? Do we have a cadre of today’s Scottish poets who share that recognised difference of quality that distinguishes them from the majority? I’m not looking for a list here, because these are often arbitrary and subjective, and sometimes insulting. Too often such lists reflect factional and/or fashionable interests – who’s ‘in’ and who’s ‘out’, and I hate that sort of thing. I’m suggesting that maybe social fragmentation and changes in the way literature impinges on our national awareness militate against the emergence of a new generation comparable to the one which has now undoubtedly passed.

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About sunnydunny

Poet, publisher, gardener
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2 Responses to The generations

  1. Jim Murdoch says:

    Generations must be ending all the time. It won’t be long before the last soldier who fought in World War I will be dead, the last person to survive a concentration camp, the last person to spend an old penny. There are cultural events that one might expect to unify writers no matter where they are in the world – something like 9/11 – and yet I don’t see any desperate need being expressed by poets or writers to take a certain stance on anything. Ron Silliman doggedly keeps trting to promote a non-group called the Quietists but no one appears keen to want to jump on the bandwagon there. I think that a new school of poetry could be a good thing – it worked with the Beats and the Liverpool poets, two of them are still alive – but maybe people feel that that by joining together they weaken their own writing in some way. If there is a common thread in poetry in general – I’ve not read enough modern Scottish poetry to have any meaningful opinion – it’s probably towards straightforward and unpretentious writing and to my mind that would be a group that would pique my attention: the Plain Speakers. I’d sign up right now.

  2. Gordon Mason says:

    Surely the link for the ‘new’ group of poets is St Andrews. The host of poets at the University – Burnside, Crawford, Dunn, Jamie, Paterson. And StAnza … of course!

    It is my ‘fatherland’ too!

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