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This article is taken from PN Review 154, Volume 30 Number 2, November - December 2003.

Hugh MacDiarmid after 25 Years Dorian Grieve, John Manson, and Alan Riach

Published by Carcanet on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Hugh MacDiarmid's death, The Revolutionary Art of the Future is a selection from around 300 poems by Hugh MacDiarmid drawn from the archives of the National Library of Scotland, most of them never printed before. They were collected by John Manson, an independent scholar, a retired schoolteacher, a poet and a translator. Already, it is a controversial little book.

In the British media, controversy centred on a poem entitled 'On the Imminent Destruction of London, June 1940' which prompted a front-page headline in the Glasgow newspaper The Herald of 11 April 2003: 'Why MacDiarmid welcomed the London Blitz'. If the date in the title of the poem is to be credited, however, it was written before the Blitz took place. As an extreme Left Republican Nationalist, MacDiarmid's main aim at that time was Scottish independence from the British Empire and not the defence of the Empire.

Gerry Cambridge, editor of the literary periodical The Dark Horse, stated that it is the best of MacDiarmid's poetry which is important, 'not his impotent political opinions' in his 'self-elected role as pulpiteer and political prophet' (The Dark Horse, No.15, Summer 2003, p.3). Cambridge registered impatience with those 'who not only manage to take such attention-seeking opinions of MacDiarmid seriously, but indeed give them breathing space'. Nevertheless, 'what Douglas Dunn has called this poet's "talent for posthumous controversy" not only lives on, but flourishes'. The 'NB' column in the Times Literary ...


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