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This interview is taken from PN Review 120, Volume 24 Number 4, March - April 1998.

In Conversation with Norman MacCaig Alan Riach

This conversation took place in Norman MacCaig's home in Edinburgh on the afternoon and early evening of 9 February 1995. The context was convivial, gently floating on drams of good whisky we both supplied and accepted from each other. Where I've noted 'Laughter' it was shared.

It was the last time I met him. I'd known him for a number of years and he'd been generous and friendly with encouragement and advice regarding my own poetry, and information about his friendship with Hugh MacDiarmid and the assistance he'd given MacDiarmid over the years.1 In 1994, I had the idea of recording conversations with people who had known MacDiarmid with the notion that a book of reminiscences might evolve. I decided against that in the end, but it explains to some extent why we began with memories of MacDiarmid and returned to him so frequently. We moved easily into other areas which reveal more of MacCaig's temperament and character than MacDiarmid's. Nevertheless, their friendship was mutual and it says as much about MacCaig as it does about MacDiarmid. The epic poet of In Memoriam James Joyce could quote the miniaturist MacCaig in the course of that poem, laconically admonishing him, in the knowledge that there are always bigger fish beyond the bigger fish:

That behind Leviathan
There's still the kraken,
And no end to our 'ontological heroics.'
And MacCaig has laughed and said
'Let me see you catch anything yet
...


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