Monday, January 19, 2009

Network and Floating Population

TLS January 16 2009

from Joe Phelan's review of Robert Crawford's The Bard: Robert Burns, a biography:

Through his membership of the Freemasons, his participation in the Tarbolton "Bachelors Club", and his friendship with like-minded people of his own class and background, he found ready support and assistance for his earliest poetic efforts, and encouragement for his desire to have his songs and poems published. It was not a wealthy patron, but his Irvine friend Richard Brown who first suggested that he send his verses to a magazine for publication. Such networks enabled Burns to develop and sustain a sense of the value of his literary output independent of that placed on it by wealthy supporters who drifted into and out of his life. Unlike John Clare, he was no reduced to debilitating social and intellectual isolation by the withdrawal of patronage.


Both [Robert] Fergusson and Allan Ramsay provided him with validating examples of a vernacular poetry which drew on rather than apologized for the strength, energy and occasional ferocity of everyday speech. Burns also found in this Scots language tradition his characteristic stanza, the "Standard Habbie", the shorter fourth and sixth lines of which provide the perfect vehicle for his ruminative asides and biting comments. 


from Robert Crawford's review of Alastair Reid's Outside In: Selected prose, and Inside Out: Selected poetry and translations:

Reid now articulates a Scottish nationalist position . . . but also an internationalism that has been commitedly, gleefully nomadic. It is expressed in such Stevensoian essays as "Notes on Being a Foreigner": "By the time I have finished dinner, I find I have to make an effort to remember the place I left--how it felt, at least. Matches and toothpaste are the only continuities; once they are used up, the previous existence from which they came has withered and died". This delight in eliding and eluding "continuities" animates the writing. In essay after essay, Reid's relish of the outsider's fly-by-night elusiveness is counterpointed by the companionable tone of his prose. "I was portable, to the tune of two small bags," he writes in "Other People's Houses", recalling that from childhood he felt "oppressed by permanence and rootedness".


In a revealing moment, he rejoices in a puzzled visiting census-taker who encounters him with Borges and some American friends in a rented St Andrews house. The census-taker decides, "I think, Mr Reid, I'll just put you all down under 'Floating Population'". 

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