PUBLISHED to coincide with the 100th anniversary of his birth, and surely the definitive collection of his work, this Collected Poems of Sorley MacLean – ‘Caior Gheal Leumraich’/ A White Leaping Flame – brings together previously unpublished works, lines cut from work, published poetry from MacLean’s own edited volumes of poetry and work previously published in various magazines, literary journals and anthologies.
With works presented in their original Gaelic with English translations, the beauty and pragmatic works of MacLean are easily accessible to all.
A biographical summary at the beginning of the tome explores the writer’s life, from his childhood in Raasay through his life at university and war experiences, and examines his effect on Gaelic and Scottish literature, as well as his literary, political and philosophical influences including Gaelic tradition song, Romanticism and Modernism, as well as Communism and Fascism.
Born on October 26, 1911, Sorley is generally recognised as the most significant writer in Scottish Gaelic of the twentieth century.
His work however possesses a relevance which extends far beyond the bounds of his nation and his language. His 1943 collection ‘Dàin do Eimhir’ (Poems to Eimhir) brought Gaelic poetry abreast of the modern world with breathtaking and notorious effectiveness; it’s passionate works displaying a young man battling with the conflicting claims of love and duty against the background of the all-out war.
His work characterised by a mixture of reticence and outspokenness, his political poem ‘An Cuilithionn’ (The Cuillin) links the tragedy of the Highland Clearances with a tradition left-wing radicalism which had the French and Bolshevik revolutions as its high-points.
For those new to Sorley MacLean, the ‘Caior Gheal Leumraich’ collection is brilliantly introduced by the books editorial team: Christopher Whyte, probably the greatest living expert on Sorley’s poetry, and Emma Dymock.
A Gaelic poet, novelist, translator and critic, the Glasgow born Christopher graduated from Cambridge in 1973 and returned home to Scotland in 1985, taking up the post as Reader in the Department of Scottish Literature at Glasgow University from 1990 until 2005.
Emma Dymock gained a First Class Honours in Celtic at the University of Edinburgh in 2003 and has since completed an MSc on symbolism in 20th century Gaelic poetry and a PhD on themes of politics and concepts of the self in Sorley MacLean’s ‘An Cuilithionn’.
Currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Celtic and Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh, Dymock has written various articles and chapters on the subject of Sorley MacLean’s poetry, as well as co-editing two books on Scottish and Gaelic literature.
‘Caior Gheal Leumraich’ is published by Polygon and retails at £25.