Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Mr MacCaig Came To Stirling

When I was the Scottish Arts Council writer-in-residence in Stirling, I invited Norman MacCaig to do a reading at the town's Central Library. The event was a great success and I later wrote a poem about it.

Here is his letter of acceptance (stressing that he hates being photographed):

And here's my poem about the reading (January 1991) and our journey back to Edinburgh:
Mr MacCaig Came To Stirling 
I was the would-be entrepreneur; he
without doubt, the star. Unfolding, he smoked
below my big No Smoking sign. Then
dragging a leg, he faced his crowd. A joke
as dry as finest malt, then Mr MacCaig
was away, off through a world of short walks
that ended with long conclusions; then sheep
and stone; mortality; and trains. He talked
a complete hour, with measured words,
quick gleams and perfect pauses. In his streets
and hills, we saw with his eyes, knew Scotland
and eternity. He even stood to treat
us all with Hints About His Writing.
How long did he take to make a poem?
He answered well, but didn't tell. Some folk
called him Norman, as though they were at home
with an uncle or old pal. And the stags
stood quiet by the birch wood, while the white horse
bared its teeth at the wind. Later, I sped
through the night with Mr MacCaig. The view
from the train was ourselves: me, and his long head
smoking and talking, through Larbert, Falkirk,
Linlithgow. Until he started to sing
to me, as though he'd know me forever -
but Norman could sing for almost anyone.
The train rolled on; it slid into our station.
Shutters were shut; the clock's hands close to midnight;
but frosted pavements shone like constellations.
Published in WILL I EVER GET TO MINSK? (HappenStance, 2012),
THE SCOTSMAN (1999),   
THE HERALD (1997).
First Prize in the UK section of the Scottish International Poetry
Competition (1996).

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Jim C. Wilson  Poet
‘A true poet —