Mackie, Alastair

Aberdeen University Press

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Mackie, Alastair

Alastair Mackie is now widely recognised as the most important poet in the Scots language in the second half of the twentieth century.

‘The poet’s primary concern is with language. The words come first. This is the key to understanding Mackie’s poetry. Far from setting out from a concept and then finding the words to embody it, the poet uses his art to arrive at one. Poetry, in other words, is a method of working out what one wishes to say.'  Christopher Rush, Mackie: New Collected Poems, xlv


Alastair Mackie: New Collected Poems includes over a hundred new poems identified in Mackie’s manuscripts by Christopher Rush, a former of student of his, who has edited the volume from Mackie’s published works and previously unpublished materials. Rush writes: ‘I was a 4th year pupil at Waid [Academy], and on the point of leaving school to go to sea, having failed all my 4th Form exams. Alastair Mackie changed all that. He was not the only influence which propelled me in an entirely different direction, but his effect was crucial, it was life-changing.’

Aberdonian, working class, Doric speaker, Mackie served on a minesweeper in WWII before becoming a schoolteacher – first in Orkney and then in Fife. His poetry is full of humanity, wit and observation as all the while Mackie, inspirational teacher and driven poet, struggled with depression.

It has been a labour of love and gratitude for Rush who has also painstakingly compiled Mackie’s Journals and Poetic Notebooks (under Mackie’s own preferred title, Discontinuities), which consists of a previously unpublished diary that the poet kept from the 1940s until a few days before his death in 1995. Discontinuities contains many drafts of poems and stories, together with Mackie’s responses to and translations from the work of a wide range of Europeans poets, both classical and contemporary: writers such as Rimbaud and Baudelaire, Dante and Leopardi, Mandelstam, Akhmatova and Pasternak, and many others. Some of these are published for the first time in the ‘Translations’ section of the New Collected Poems.

Both volumes, Alastair Mackie: New Collected Poems and Discontinuities not only enhance Mackie’s already growing reputation as a poet in both Scots and English but will provide significant responses by a major Scottish poet to the cultural and political situation of Scotland in the second half of the twentieth century.