poetry on the sofa

A simple truth: the rest cure works better if you love the book you’re reading…

I’ve had this book from the library for ages (ahem, let us not speak of the fines), but kept picking up something else instead. I have no idea why I ignored it for so long. As soon as I’d opened it, I loved it, right from the first page, and read avidly straight through to the end. I almost didn’t care that the sun was shining outside, and I was stuck indoors sitting still.

It’s a book about a man who takes a short fishing trip with two friends, except it’s not at all, because it’s so much more than that. It’s about death and living, illness and recovery, friendship and different ways of loving. It sings out with a deep love for the wildness and peoples of Assynt. Actually, I remember: I don’t write book reviews. I’m just going to say, read it. As soon as you can get your hands on a copy. Well, you know, only if you want to of course…

So now of course, I quite fancy a holiday in Assynt (I’m nothing if not predictable…)

But more importantly I found a new poet. Why has nobody ever told me to read Norman MacCaig? I’m telling you: go and search out some of his poems, find one that speaks to you.

This one clicked in my head. The last few years have been too full of funerals, for strong, beautiful, loving and loved women, who died too soon. Nothing can take away the pain of that, or the ugly tedium of grieving, but MacCaig’s paganism soothes the rawest edges of memory.


Norman MacCaig – Highland Funeral

Over the dead man’s house, over his landscape
the frozen air was a scrawny psalm
I believed in, because it was pagan
as he was.

Into it the minister’s voice
spread a pollution of bad beliefs.
The sanctimonious voice dwindled away
over the boring, beautiful sea.

The sea was boring, as grief is,
but beautiful, as grief is not.
Through grief’s dark ugliness I saw that beauty
because he would have.

And that darkened the ugliness… Can the dead
help? I say so. Because, a year later,
that sanctimonious voice is silent and the pagan
landscape is sacred in a new way.

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1 Comment

Filed under books, poetry

One response to “poetry on the sofa

  1. Nell

    I love the way Andrew Greig writes – the last I read was The Retunr on John Macnab – Scotland, poaching and Buchan revisited, wonderful. xx

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