Refining and eliminating: Norman MacCaig as his own editor

Over the last few weeks I’ve been revisiting Norman MacCaig’s poetry, with an eye to picking out a couple of correspondences I thought I’d noticed between poems. Those correspondences, if they survive inspection, will be a matter for another post. What I want to do here is to look at a “matter arising”, which is the importance of MacCaig’s editing — both amending and deleting — in shaping both his individual poems and the body of work that forms the various anthologies (1985, 1990 and 2006) of his poetry.

The matter arises because MacCaig’s own account of his writing suggests that conscious intent played little or no part in it:

I sit down with a blank sheet of paper and no idea whatever in my head. …the poem stalactites down the page from that. … I don’t know what the whole poem’s about till I’ve finished it.

(The Poems of Norman MacCaig, 2006, xlii)

However, this appeal to the unconscious and the spontaneous seems curiously at odds with his assertion elsewhere that

poetry involves order. It has to submit to the control of the rational mind — it’s not enough to lift the trap-door to the subconscious and lasso whatever crawls out.

(ibid, xxxix)

MacCaig’s own account of how he reconciled theory and practice involved that supreme tool of the writer, the waste-paper basket:

Many poets polish and refine and eliminate and add… I can’t do that. … I reckon at least half, probably more, of what I write, I put in the bucket — an act I relish almost as much as writing the things.

(ibid, xliii)

There is certainly truth to this: Ewen McCaig’s estimate (ibid, xix) is that his father wrote about 3900 poems during his “years of mature production” (i.e. after he emerged from his New Apocalypse phase with its emphasis on the surreal and the subconscious), of which he destroyed around 2800. But McCaig provides further information which is less consistent with his father’s claim that he couldn’t “polish and eliminate and refine”:

Minor amendments were often made during, or following, this process [typing]. Many of the typescripts contain holograph amendments. The amendment process never entirely stopped, even following publication: his own copies of the books… contain a small number of amendments.

(ibid, xix)

With these comments in mind, it is interesting to examine MacCaig’s published poems with an eye to what was changed between one publication and the next, and to what was deleted altogether.

Let’s deal with deletions first. Considering only the thirteen volumes published before the first Collected Poems (1985), and counting withdrawals from the 2006 edition (The Poems of Norman MacCaig), the score stands as follows: Riding Lights, 13 poems withdrawn out of 49; The Sinai Sort, 16/44; A Common Grace, 8/35; A Round of Applause, 8/50; Measures, 10/51; Surroundings, 15/49; Rings on a Tree, 11/50; A Man in My Position, 14/51; The White Bird, 20/48; The World’s Room, 13/54; Tree of Strings, 11/54; The Equal Skies, 5/56; A World of Difference, 4/61. Doubtless one could slice and dice these numbers interminably to nobody’s great benefit,  but a couple of points do seem to stand out. Unsurprisingly, more poems were withdrawn from the earlier volumes than the later ones, reflecting a smaller gap between the poet’s judgement at the time of writing and at the time of anthologising. The transition to free verse in Surroundings is also marked by an increase in the proportion of poems withdrawn, presumably because MacCaig’s judgement of his own new style took some time to stabilise. (Ewen McCaig notes (p. xxii) that “although [MacCaig] was keen to reject poor work, he was often indecisive about individual poems”. This indecision is nicely illustrated by the fact that two poems, Shifts and Progress, made his selection for Old Maps and New in 1978 but were omitted entirely from the 1985 Collected.)

Most conspicuously, about two fifths of the poems in The White Bird were later withdrawn, including two (Inward Bound and Message) that made it to both the 1985 and 1990 Collecteds. The White Bird, even in its anthologised form, has always struck me as an uncomfortable collection, opening with the unpleasantly detached portrait of the poet in Milne’s Bar (1967) and finishing with the plea of In a mist (1969). In the 1985 Collected, eighteen poems are added to this collection — more than to any other except Riding Lights — and as they include Memorial (1971), that raw elegy to his sister Frances who had died in 1968, there may be some suggestion here of the emotional background that made it harder than usual for MacCaig to judge his work dispassionately.

Perhaps it’s worth making one other comment about the withdrawn poems from the earlier volumes. Both Riding Lights and The Sinai Sort, even in their anthologised versions, are rather dense in imagery and terminology drawn from the Bible and from Christian theology. In their original forms, this density is even more apparent: both here and the original version of A Round of Applause there is a sense that Christianity looms large in the poet’s frame of reference, and sometimes that he is making use of it as a source of positive inspiration as well as measuring himself against it as a destructive power. In particular, the withdrawn poems The Shadow and the Cross (Riding Lights), Brackloch and Upper Circle (both A Round of Applause) could all be read as “Christian” poems — if not precisely orthodox then no odder than some of the devotional struggles of John Donne. (The first of these also represents an unusual experiment with Audenesque ballad metre: it’s possible to read stanzas from The Shadow and the Cross alternately with similar stanzas from Auden and produce something that your listener may not immediately detect as a collage.) MacCaig’s withdrawal of such poems later in life may have had the same aim as his disavowal of The Far Cry and The Inward Eye: to shape his poetic output by discarding intellectual experiments with which he had lost patience. This is presumably what he meant when in one of his interviews with Anette Degott he commented that “I’ve written poems in which I said things I didn’t believe at all… Out they go.” [A. Degott-Reinhardt, Norman MacCaigs lyrisches Werk, p. 278.]

The Selected Poems (1971) provided another opportunity for MacCaig to shape the body of his work as it was presented to a general readership. This selection was published a few years after MacCaig had embarked both on free verse and on his project of lucidity, and although all the collections from Riding Lights onward are represented, there seems to be a definite bias in favour of the more accessible poems and those that are less tangled in “metaphysics”. This is not to say that more complex poems are absent (for example, both Golden calf (1954) and the enjoyably Donneish Poem for a goodbye (1954) made the cut), but The Sinai Sort, probably his most metaphysical collection, is reduced to five poems, against twelve from its precursor Riding Lights and nine from its successor A Common Grace. Overall, the MacCaig of the Selected Poems is a poet whom one would be glad to encounter in the classroom, whose capacity for praise would strike one first and whose complexity might only slowly grow upon one.

Despite the care taken in his selection, MacCaig did not use the Selected Poems to carry out a general revision of the text of his poems: apart from a change to Assisi, discussed below, the only alteration that he carried out was systematically to remove the initial capitalisation of lines in the free-verse poems (as he had done in the collections since Rings on a Tree), adding to their informal feel. Similarly, when the Selected was expanded in 1978 to become Old Maps and New, this involved only adding selections from two more volumes, along with the small alteration to Standing in my ideas (1958) that’s mentioned below.

Compared with the number of withdrawn poems, only a few were noticeably amended between their first publication and their appearance in one of the Collecteds — though there is every chance that I’ve missed a few. There are a handful of alterations to text or punctuation that seems to be no more than the correction of typos, while several others are simply exercises in accuracy: in Moorings (1959-61), an oystercatcher’s legs go from red to orange; as I’ve noted before, Leaving the Metropolitan Museum (1966) becomes Leaving the Museum of Modern Art; Ethel Merman in Writers’ Conference, Long Island University (1966) becomes the older variety singer Sophie Tucker; in July Landing (1972), “the sand at Achmelvich” has moved round Stoer Point to “the sand at Clashnessie”. Now and again there’s a refinement that rises slightly above this level: for example, in Standing in my ideas (1958), “as if bole and bough / Were Ariels” alters to “as if bole and bough / Surrender Ariels”, a nice connection with the cloven pine in The Tempest, though not one that advances the argument much.

A few titles also change in the Collecteds. Some seem to change to avoid confusion with other identically or similarly-named poems: Explorer (1954) becomes Pioneer (cf. Explorer, 1959-61); Sheep dipping (1972) acquires a location and becomes Sheep dipping, Achmelvich (cf. Sheep dipping, 1953); Betweens (in Measures) becomes Deceptions? in the Collecteds (cf. Between, 1966) before vanishing from the 2006 PoemsOutsider (1979) becomes Hard division (cf. Outsider, 1959-61); Old man (1980) becomes Old man in his chair (cf. Old man, 1971). A few others seem to be expansions or elaborations: A sort of blues (1967) becomes the more literary Brechtian blues, perhaps to point up the echo between the closing stanza and the much-quoted line from Leben des Galilei, “unhappy the land that needs heroes”; Dark centre (1984) becomes Bright day, dark centre; Emblems (1986) becomes more descriptively Emblems: after her illness.

So far, none of these amendments offers much insight into anything. Every so often, though, there’s an alteration that strikes me as a neat illustration of MacCaig’s craftsmanship at work.

One of these occurs in the last stanza of Drifter (1950), which in Riding Lights begins “I sat with that cruel thief [Memory] inside me”. This was a poem that MacCaig rightly thought well enough of to include in his Selected Poems (1971), and it appears there and in Old Maps and New (1978) unamended. By the 1985 Collected Poems, though, one word has changed: “I sat with that kind thief inside me”. Having read the Collected version, it’s hard to imagine how the original could have made use of the lazier adjective: not only does the phrase “kind thief” jolt the reader out of the trance that the earlier stanzas has woven, it encapsulates the paradox of the whole poem, in which “corpses” become “throttled silver” and ultimately the “treasure” stored in a boy’s memory — a boy who was later to describe himself as “a millionaire of sunlight and summer winds… and without knowing it a miser / stuffing the bag of my mind / with sovereigns / I’ve been spending ever since” (Inward bound, in The White Bird, 1973). If asked, I’d confidently have guessed that that phrase had provided the anchor around which the conclusion of the poem swung — and the fact that it took somewhere between twenty and thirty-five years for the poet to find that anchor really ought to cure me from any similar speculation about his writing processes.

In a further handful of poems, MacCaig deleted lines or whole sections; usually, it seems, in order to make the poem more tightly focused. The five-stanza poem Pastoral (1964) which appeared in Surroundings (1966) appeared in the 1985 Collected with its first two stanzas deleted, under the title On a cloudy mountain. The effect of the deletion is almost cinematic: whereas the original spent eight lines panning across Stac Pollaidh before zooming in, the revised version disposes of the scene in the title and opens with the image of the shot stag running.

Give or take (1968) is another poem that underwent substantial revision: for the Collected version, MacCaig deleted the second and fourth stanzas of seven, as well as carrying out some more minor amendments. It’s fairly easy to imagine why he removed the second stanza, which introduces some incongruous elements (pigeons, semaphores and osmosis) that aren’t reflected elsewhere in the poem. The fourth stanza is much less incongruous, picking up on the reference to Pisgah with the phrase “journeys and tribes”, and doesn’t seem to break the flow in the same way. Possibly MacCaig simply felt that its conclusion “When you look at me / you make me deserve to be me” was too banal. In any case, he found a way to enrich the poem by revising the last line of the original third stanza: “I feel old, you fill me with histories” becomes “You’re filling me with new histories”, and echoing this the “neighbourhood” in the following stanza becomes a “new neighbourhood”. It’s a small change but a rewarding one, with the phrase “new histories” picking up on the double-edged significance of Pisgah (Deut. 32: 48-52 and 34: 1-4); and also, perhaps, drawing a sly parallel between the process of reading meanings with hindsight into prophetic writings and the process of reading meanings into the history of a love affair.

The most prominent of MacCaig’s poems to have had lines deleted is Assisi (1964). On its original publication in Surroundings (1966) this poem had a brief second stanza:

His look owes its slyness
To the fact
That he had no neck.

By the 1971 Selected Poems, and in the subsequent Collecteds, these lines had been excised.

To deal first with a minor textual crux, the tense of “owes” is presumably a typo, since when MacCaig gave a public reading in Massachusetts in 1967 he corrected “owes” to “owed”. (This is the version on the CD that accompanies The Poems of Norman MacCaig (2006); just by-the-by, I wonder how much confusion the discrepancy between CD and text will cause now that the poem has become a National 5 set text.)

That leaves the question of why this stanza was deleted, and this question may be easiest to address by considering how the poem reads when it is reinstated. My immediate reaction is that these lines are rather jarring: why does the narrator feel the need to explain a “slyness” that the previous stanza hasn’t even hinted at? The best explanation seems to be that the word looks forward rather than backward: the apparent slyness of the beggar, assessed and understood by the narrator in the second stanza, is offered as a parallel to the “cleverness” of Giotto (and by implication of the priest), assessed and rather less sympathetically “understood” by the narrator in the following stanza. The narrator’s appraisal of the beggar, recognising that his apparent moral repulsiveness is only superficial, thus parallels his converse judgement of the priest and the superficial beauty of the art that he presents. It’s a neat effect which helps to structure the poem: the two central stanzas each end on a more or less explicit moral assessment, while the first and last stanzas each end on a parallel with St Francis that provides a slightly more oblique moral commentary.

Perhaps, though, the effect is just too neat. In a sly appropriation of one of the poem’s keywords, David Black commented that Assisi displayed “the sort of demagogic cleverness with which the sardonic schoolmaster keeps order in the class-room” (Akros 10(28), August 1975), and it may be that MacCaig came to feel similar reservations about a poem that he must have read, in his slightly sardonic schoolteacher’s voice, to more than one classroom audience. This suggests one possible reason for the deletion of this stanza: to lighten slightly the suggestion of moral showing-off by the narrator.

At the same time as it downplays the judgemental element in the narrator, though, the deletion places the other figures in the poem in an even less comfortable light. While that word “slyness” persisted, it introduced the hint that the tourists might be shying away from what they saw as a cunning professional mendicant, so they were guilty of no more than a failure to probe beneath appearances. With this hint removed, both priest and tourists are presented more bluntly as morally dead, too concerned with the aesthetic and spiritual to recognise real human need. (It’s slightly surprising that I can see no echo in the poem of the priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan…) So, as well as making the narrator and thus the poem a shade more sympathetic, this deletion strengthens the ethical thrust of the poem by removing a chance of extenuation for its targets.

Like the changes to Drifter and Give or take, then, the deletion in Assisi is a small detail, but one that provides a rare insight into MacCaig’s mode of writing. Contrary to his own account, it seems, that mode was one in which refinement and elimination were sometimes an important element — and being aware of this ought to send the reader, now and again, back to the text with a sharper eye.

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4 Responses to Refining and eliminating: Norman MacCaig as his own editor

  1. James Gordon says:

    Thank you for the articles on Norman MacCaig. May I ask are you Anette Degott-Reinhardt who wrote “Norman MacCaigs lyrisches Werk.” It is a book I would love to read, but unfortunately I do not speak German.

    I had noticed the change in “Assisi” and the deleted verse, but what I had not noticed was the deletions of poems from the single volumes to 1988 collected poems. One thing I have been looking into are the Frances MacCaig poems: two of them are not set for L5 and L6 English. I believe “Words in nowhere” from “The White Bird” P. 14 may be the sixth poem.

    I find the “Assisi” deletion fascinating. Not only was the verse included in the 1966 publication, but it was included in all the republications of the volume. It demonstrates the power of the 1988 CP, because until I had bought my single copies of the single volumes of his poetry I had not been aware of that. I suspect many are unaware that when published “Assisi” had an extra verse.

    Another thing I have noticed is that – up to the publication of “The World’s Room” all his titles included the last word capitalised. Thereafter – and continued with the collections – he used lower case for the last word unless it was a proper noun. I suspect that up to “The World’s Room” he was his preferred method. However, with regard to “Sounds of the Day” “Day” is a proper noun. Therefore it is not just any day, it is a particular day: it was the day the sounds stopped. Although the changes were made Norman MacCaig’s lifetime – I am not sure I agree with the change.

    What I was looking at was something the poet Jackie Kay mentioned: that poems (within a volume of poetry) should talk to each other. So I was wondering whether there were echo’s of “Sounds of the Day” elsewhere in the volume. I wondered whether “Two-Part Invention”; the next poem and its last verse contained resonance from “Sounds of the Day.” What really surprised – going back to the composition of the 1988 Collected Poems was both its omission from that volume as well the 2005 TPONM. Effectively, unless you have the volume Surroundings, the poem is now out of print. It made me wonder how many other poems have been affected by these editorial decisions.

    Thank your for your articles, I thoroughly enjoyed them.

  2. Thank you for your comments. I think I need some time to consider them properly, especially the ones about “Words in nowhere” and “Two-Part Invention” — I’ll try to get back to you when I’ve done so. Just for the record, though, I’m not Dr Degott-Reinhardt, nor anyone so well qualified to comment — just a university maths teacher who likes MacCaig’s poetry and is also fond of frogs…

  3. James Gordon says:

    Thank you for your response.
    With regard to “Two-Part Invention” I may be stretching things a bit to link the two. However I did find the last verse and the idea of his alter ego speaking for him of interest. I am feel a bit more confident with regard to “Words in Nowhere.”

    I read with interest your comments on the excised verse. However, having listened to Norman MacCaig’s introduction to the poem – which is at the end of “Responsibility” – I feel he meant that verse. He describes the beggar as follows. “At the entry to the sort of quadrangle – campus whatever they call it – there was a poor beggar. The most pathetic looking creature I ever saw in my life. Terrible. And everything was terrible except he had the sweetest expression on his face and in his voice.” I believe that verse was part of MacCaig’s attempt to create that terrible sight he saw.

    I completely follow your argument why the verse might have been removed – maybe that is why MacCaig did remove it. However I feel the idea of the beggar looking sly is a consequence of his physical stature it is not part of his character. I wonder if MacCaig is not deliberately saying that this beggar may have looked sly, but there was a physical reason and justification for it – whereas there was no such justification for the priest who is the subject of the next verse. In a sense as well as justifying why the beggar looked like that, MacCaig was also making a comparison and criticism of the priest.

    I like this verse I think it adds to the poem and I wish MacCaig had not excised it.

  4. Thank you for the articles on Norman MacCaig. May I ask are you Anette Degott-Reinhardt who wrote “Norman MacCaigs lyrisches Werk.” It is a book I would love to read, but unfortunately I do not speak German.

    As I said above, sadly I’m not Dr Degott-Reinhardt — just a maths teacher with a long-standing penchant for MacCaig’s poetry. I’ve been unable to find a publication trail online, which suggests to me that she left academia after her PhD. I do speak German and I’ve made my way through parts of the thesis, but I’m afraid I found it somewhat heavy going. One huge achievement of hers was to persuade MacCaig to participate in three interviews without being delinquent or dodging the questions — which I think he was prone to do on other occasions. (By interview 3 I think he was getting a little puckish: it opens with “NM: So you start with your fiendish questions” and ends with “NM: No questions left. Good gracious, are you feeling all right?”, both of which ADR transcribes conscientiously.)

    I had noticed the change in “Assisi” and the deleted verse, but what I had not noticed was the deletions of poems from the single volumes to 1988 collected poems. One thing I have been looking into are the Frances MacCaig poems: two of them are not set for L5 and L6 English. I believe “Words in nowhere” from “The White Bird” P. 14 may be the sixth poem.

    I assume the other five are “Sounds of the day”, “Memorial”, “In my mind”, “Spilled salt” and “If”? These are all described by Alistair Macrae as “usually considered to relate to Frances”; Marjory McNeill agrees on “Sounds of the day”, “Spilled salt” and “In my mind”, while saying that the subject of “Memorial” is “probably Frances”; she doesn’t mention “If”. I think that in one blog post I suggested, from the timing, that “Visiting hour” might also be about Frances, but McNeill seems confident that it’s about an illness of Isabel McCaig’s, and Macrae doesn’t mention the poem. I imagine that McNeill is more likely to be right than I am here.

    I’d be interested to hear more about your reasons for identifying “Words in nowhere” as a Frances McCaig poem. I agree that “with you not here” suggests an elegy, and the timing (1970) certainly makes this possible. I’d tend to read it in its place in the collection, though, following “A noise of stumbles” (written 1964), assuming — perhaps erroneously! — that the older poem wasn’t placed in the collection entirely at random. It seems to me that they’re both about the impossibility of describing adequately the person to whom the poem is addressed, or at least of describing her adequately without paradox — the “noise of stumbles” created by being “choked” by her is a kind of inverse of the words to describe her that “bulge so in my net / I can’t haul them up”. (And what do you think of “A sort of Eden” as the third in that mini-sequence — a neat undercutting of all these worries about expression with the poem “careful as a parrot, / hoping it was not a parrot”? (It’s a lovely miniature — I’ve no idea why MacCaig withdrew it.)

    I find the “Assisi” deletion fascinating. Not only was the verse included in the 1966 publication, but it was included in all the republications of the volume. It demonstrates the power of the 1988 CP, because until I had bought my single copies of the single volumes of his poetry I had not been aware of that. I suspect many are unaware that when published “Assisi” had an extra verse.

    Yes: I think this is an issue that is likely to cause some problems in schools — one reason for writing a post about the changes was so that any poor school teacher who discovers the discrepancy between the text in the 2006 Collected and the accompanying CD can find reassurance with a little searching online…

    Another thing I have noticed is that – up to the publication of “The World’s Room” all his titles included the last word capitalised. Thereafter – and continued with the collections – he used lower case for the last word unless it was a proper noun. I suspect that up to “The World’s Room” he was his preferred method. However, with regard to “Sounds of the Day” “Day” is a proper noun. Therefore it is not just any day, it is a particular day: it was the day the sounds stopped. Although the changes were made Norman MacCaig’s lifetime – I am not sure I agree with the change.

    This is an interesting observation, though I’m not sure how much MacCaig had to do with the decisions about capitalisation in titles or how much it’s safe to deduce from them. I assume that he was responsible for the decapitalisation of the start of lines in the free-verse poems, which starts with Rings on a Tree and was then imposed retrospectively in the 1971 Selected Poems. In the individual volumes, there’s a period from the late 1960s when the title above each poem is set all in capitals, so the only evidence of capitalisation patterns is on the Contents page, and I’m not sure whether MacCaig had anything to do with this or whether it was the publisher’s house style. I agree there’s an ambiguity in day/Day that I’d not spotted, though I suspect that if “Day” had been the principal sense then he’d have left it capitalised in the 1985 Collected — he certainly did revise some titles at this stage.

    What I was looking at was something the poet Jackie Kay mentioned: that poems (within a volume of poetry) should talk to each other. So I was wondering whether there were echos of “Sounds of the Day” elsewhere in the volume. I wondered whether “Two-Part Invention”; the next poem and its last verse contained resonance from “Sounds of the Day.” What really surprised – going back to the composition of the 1988 Collected Poems was both its omission from that volume as well the 2005 TPONM. Effectively, unless you have the volume Surroundings, the poem is now out of print.

    To my mind, whether the individual volumes are consciously selected and organised is a really interesting and open question. Ewen McCaig’s editorial note to the 2006 Collected suggests not, but certainly leaves the door open: “while my father discussed issues around the selection of poems with me… he never referred to ordering. I don’t think it was a concern that ranked highly with him.” He’s less ambiguous about the selection for books, saying that MacCaig “certainly never shaped his creative output with individual books in mind”. Having said this, and with due respect to Ewen McCaig, I suspect that his father on occasion liked to underplay the level of conscious artistry in his work, possibly as a way of deterring the eager but clumsy attempts at critical analysis that he deplored. The famous “two fags” line, for example, I simply don’t believe — the whole of “Golden calf” on that small dose of nicotine? There is certainly plenty of internal evidence that particular themes or words interested him at particular times, and they have a habit of popping up; I’ve been tracing one or two of these, and I hope to get a blog post out of them in due course. Whether this is what Jackie Kay meant by the poems in a book talking to each other I don’t know, but I am sure there’s a cumulative effect — even if it’s just the sparkle that Don Paterson described as “like tipping a bucket of gemstones out on the carpet”.

    “Two-Part Invention” is a tough poem to get a handle on. That paradoxical last stanza has a distinctly Donneish feel to it — I keep thinking it’s a quotation or half-quotation but I can’t pin it down — as is the second stanza; and I’ve always vaguely associated the “bangle of ice” with Donne’s “The Relic”, without being able to make a convincing case for it. There’s also a sort of pre-echo of “A man in my position”, of course. Meanwhile, the word “invisible” turns up a few times in “Surroundings” (“Three Invisibles”, “Waiting to Notice”, “Not Stolen, but Strayed”, “Absorbed”), along with related ideas like “opaque”, “vanish” and “darkness”, and I think in general there’s a hint that he was interested in, or playing with, the idea of ways of knowing that bypass sight. “Surroundings” also sees quite a few musical references, not least in the title of this poem. (I wonder whether he’d met the idea that “inventio” in Bach’s title was itself a play on words [http://www.qub.ac.uk/~tomita/essay/inventions.html] — it wouldn’t surprise me if he had.) The really puzzling detail is that odd word “evidences”. Unless this is a real slip in register, I think he must be referring to the technical/theological term (as in Paley’s “Natural Theology or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity”) — which would make the poem, at one level, a kind of spoof on natural theology. Unexpected, but it wouldn’t be the only case of MacCaig messing about with the apparatus of Christianity — indeed, in “The Cloud of Undoing” he’s referencing and co-opting (or spoofing?) the mystical tradition alluded to in the title (cf. “The Cloud of Unknowing”).

    It made me wonder how many other poems have been affected by these editorial decisions.

    This I can answer with a bit more certainty: I think that just shy of 150 poems from the original volumes were later withdrawn, not counting Far Cry and The Inward Eye.

    Thank your for your articles, I thoroughly enjoyed them.

    Glad to hear it — and I’d be glad to hear any other thoughts you have on the subject!

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