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This review is taken from PN Review 85, Volume 18 Number 5, May - June 1992.

NAMING PLACES Gerald Mangan, Waiting for the Storm (Bloodaxe Books) £5.95
Peter McCarey, Town Shanties (Broch Books, 31 Willowbank Crescent, Glasgow G3 6NA) £4.95

If the English have as informal yet secure a sense of 'their' poetry as of their constitutional rights, and can casually assimilate when it suits them those not of their nationality but of their language, the Scots cannot be so relaxed. In this case we have Scottish bards, and a New Zealand reviewer who cannot immediately bypass the nationality question (small countries are kin).

Is it just the place-names, then, that indicate Mangan's and McCarey's roots? 'Jonah in Partick', 'Heraclitus at Glasgow Cross', 'The Laird of Ardluggan' - from Waiting for the Storm; 'Dunvegan', 'Elderslie', 'Kentigern House' - from Town Shanties. Mangan's titles suggest a cross-fertilization of cultures that is perhaps the obverse of McCarey's strategy: the former domesticates great figures, brings them down to earth in unlikely locations ('Schopenhauer in Leith' - the starting point is a fishmonger at work), whereas McCarey, who has published a study of MacDiarmid and the Russians, is interested in the process of ostranenie - making the familiar strange - although less in his locations than by his medium.

Their vocabulary is rarely Scottish: where both poets use Scots words is in satire, as though standard English cannot provide sufficient sting. 'Scotland the Ghost' is Mangan's accomplished homage to MacNeice's 'Bagpipe Music' (and there are echoes of MacNeice throughout the volume) in the same skirling rhythms; a roll-call of Scotland's battles and losses from the Bruce to the World Cup, and how they have been packaged to provide modern ...


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