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This article is taken from PN Review 179, Volume 34 Number 3, January - February 2008.

On Robert Crawford and David Kinloch William Wootten

The death of Iain Crichton Smith in 1998 deprived younger Scottish poets of one of their father-figures. However, not all sons see a father in the same light, and Robert Crawford and David Kinloch are differently dutiful. Crawford's 'Ceud Mile Failte' imagines the dead poet alive, chatting to some friends in English and calling to others in Gaelic. The upbeat tribute to the poet's life, words and continuing presence after death catches only upon the unexpectedly tough 'Your language lives with a tube down its gullet'. Smith's two tongues, his 'welcomes' and 'goodbyes', become a way to depict not just Smith's preoccupation with ends and beginnings but the state of the languages themselves. Kinloch's 'An Encounter' is a contrast:

In Cardross Cemetry:
'Iain Crichton Smith',

a poet so alive to death
it made him real at last.

Four rows down -
my father - Dad.

In this little theatre
of words I make for them,

my Dad, who sold his kingdom
for booze and metaphor,

keeping death's whinny
far down the neighbour's field,

steps out of character and passes
swiftly through the audience of midnight stones,

fleeing from this real dead poet
as if he'd seen a ghost.


It's the same subject, and also in an arrangement of two-line stanzas that Smith would use, and that is a favourite with Crawford; but where ...


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