The setting of the Orcadian scene in the opening pages is masterly, but she also has the poet's knowledge of when to produce the telling detail. He spent hugely inspiring periods on the Scottish mainland: in 1951 he went to study with Edwin Muir at the cosmopolitan Newbattle Abbey, an adult education college near Edinburgh, and found in that impressive writer and thinker Willa Muir something of a surrogate mother. She had been dead for nearly three years. Today, tourists travel from Stromness to nearby Neolithic sites, such as the Ring of Brodgar, or the great mound of Maes Howe. He was a mature student at in the 1951—1952 session, where the poet , who would have a great influence on his life as a writer, was warden.
A prolific poet, admired by such fellow poets as Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes and Charles Causley, and hailed by the composer Peter Maxwell Davies as 'the most positive and benign influence ever on my own efforts at creation', he was also an accomplished novelist shortlisted for the 1994 Booker Prize for Beside the Ocean of Time and a master of the short story. Poets must also entrench themselves in sound and syntax, learn to be at home in rhythms, etymological echoes, idioms and vocabulary. The emphasis on one single, very specific star is a little unusual — perhaps simply a reference to a particularly bright star that night. The letters start in 1964 after their engagement was broken off. More than 1m older people feel lonely all or most of the time, and most of them do not feel able to admit their loneliness to family and friends. Birsay: a parish in the north-west corner of the Mainland largest island , Orkney.
Fergusson feels and captures the importance of Orkney to Brown. Its acoustic is thrawnly dug in. He once confessed to Willa Muir, wife of Edwin Muir, that it was a relief to him not to have a wife or children. Brown gave Fergusson a cautious imprimatur to write his life, but was adamant that he did not want it published in his lifetime. Though he lived most of his life with depressive illness and developed agoraphobia as he aged, Brown was not always a stay-at-home. I give him good afternoon.
And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. At a deeper level, he wondered whether his writing was simply playing with shadows or touching on reality itself. This book will surely give impetus to the process. Brown makes the time to stop and observe the beauty to be found in everyday life. This is a distinguished example of the art of the biography, beautifully produced in every respect. Native language matters more than native place.
Somehow I think of George Mackay Brown as a medieval person who landed in the twentieth century. That was something very difficult to get across in the book. Poetry is rarely a victimless crime. This Orcadian poet and storyteller was a steadfast artist who worked always against the current, wholly uninterested in material success as he sought to transmute both the Orkney of legend and the Orkney of ordinary life into a singular art. Thenceforth, despite depressive episodes, a weakness for drink, money worries and a periodic lack of confidence in the worth of what he was writing, his life shows a tenacious and moving perseverance in his vocation.
Yet he was stricken with such a streak of puritanism that towards the end of his life he edited some of his poems to exclude sexual references. Brown made his first poem, a ballad in praise of Stromness, when he was eight. Caroline, now 47 and a successful writer, was married for 12 years to a man who, though never cruel, felt increasingly absent. The golden boys of Scottish literature loved it. His autobiography avoids any mention of his subsequent lover Nora Kennedy, who moved to Orkney but appears to have been cold-shouldered after their affair was consummated. Although she was world-weary while young, everyone says that she has this extraordinary innocence, a naivety.
He had a lot of friends. She could be loud and aggressive, quite cruel in some of her jokes. To her credit, she does not present Stella simply as a victim, but it is hard to avoid seeing this young woman as a sacrifice to the culture of male-bonding, heavy drinking and poebiz showing off which constituted the Rose Street milieu of 1950s Edinburgh. It can be an avoidance of a lot of things that could feel exciting, but troubling. While this is one of the simpler poems in the collection, it is the very simplicity of the narrative and visual imagery that makes this poem so endearingly beautiful.
The ever-reliable Google Maps suggests that the required route of the poem is something like 22 miles, or a very precise 7 hours, 15 minutes of walking. Each appreciated a spirituality in the other, as well as feeling a physical attraction. She now thinks of urban life, and being surrounded by people, with horror. Cross Lord, it is time. The Society had an enormous library that included all the books of all its fellows, past and present. Never a recluse, he appeared open to his friends, but probably revealed more of himself in his voluminous correspondence with strangers. It is the combination of history and everyday life that makes this poem so atmospheric.
He felt it should all be integrated. Later he even managed to study English literature at Edinburgh University; he survived there by submitting poems instead of essays to a tolerant tutor, sympathetic to his temperament and gifts. Later in life, even when he was a much praised writer, he went on nurturing his problems. He is considered one of the great Scottish poets of the 20th century. In old age, as his fame grew, he found the stream of visitors to his small council flat in Stromness burdensome. Biographer Maggie Fergusson has done a sterling job collecting anecdotes and insights into Mackay Brown's life through his work, the people he knew and the letters he wrote and received from friends and colleagues.
Edwin Muir was himself quite a shy, reticent man, although like George he had a core of steel. After this he was helped in his development as a writer by , whose criticism he valued, and. Or perhaps this is another Biblical allusion to the Christmas Star Star of Bethlehem , which led the Magi to Jesus recounted in Matthew 2. Things like filling out forms make me feel acutely lonely. There he was with Edwin and Willa Muir. I think underneath it, especially if you read her journals and her letters, she was a very soft, maternal person. Travel can encourage this, but too much travel dilutes it.