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Norman Maccaig (Norman Alexander Maccaig) Biography

(1910–96), (Norman Alexander Maccaig), Far Cry, The Inward Eye, Riding Lights, The Sinai Sort

poems collections poetry tone

Scottish poet, born in Edinburgh, where he was educated at the Royal High School and the University. He was a schoolteacher and latterly a headmaster from 1937 to 1970, when he became a reader at the University of Stirling. During the 1940s MacCaig was associated with the New Apocalypse and his early work, collected in Far Cry (1943) and The Inward Eye (1946), partook of the movement's wildly energetic romanticism. A new fluency and discipline emerge as stylistic characteristics in Riding Lights (1955), in which his enduring concern with interpreting the nature of perception is established. Subsequent collections include The Sinai Sort (1957) and A Common Grace (1960). The poised conversational manner developed in his work of the 1950s and its thematic preoccupation with the north-western highlands of Scotland are sustained in later writing. Many poems isolate fundamental human values in their views of the lives of crofters. His imaginative sensitivity to the landscapes of lochs and mountains produces much striking visual imagery. From the mid-1960s onward he began to dispense with the strict forms he had formerly used; freer verse of great buoyancy, informality of tone, and musical effectiveness is increasingly evident in his numerous later collections, among which are Rings on a Tree (1968), Tree of Strings (1977), The Equal Skies (1980), A World of Difference (1983), and Voice-Over (1988). The marked individuality of his poetry results in part from the unusually gentle ironic tone he frequently adopts. His Collected Poems of 1985 appeared in a revised and enlarged edition in 1990, containing many poems hitherto unpublished. After the death of MacDiarmid in 1978, MacCaig was widely regarded as Scotland's most eminent poet. See also topographical poetry.

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