I said I have no powers of invention. Well, I also have no powers of mimicry.
All I write about is what's happened to me and to people I know, and the better I know them, the more likely they are to be written about.
When I was asked to be Writer in Residence at Edinburgh I thought, you can't teach poetry. This is ridiculous.
And it's impossible for me to read Henry James.
Well, I love fishing. I wouldn't kill a fly myself but I've no hesitation in killing a fish. A lot of men are like that. No bother. Out you come. Thump. And that's not the only reason.
Anybody who writes doesn't like to be misunderstood.
If I wrote a play with four characters every single one of them would talk like me regardless of age or sex.
And if they haven't got poetry in them, there's nothing you can do that will produce it.
However, I learned something. I thought that if the young person, the student, has poetry in him or her, to offer them help is like offering a propeller to a bird.
I don't care whether a book is a first edition or not. I'm not a bibliophile in that word's natural sense.
And the second question, can poetry be taught? I didn't think so.
People haven't got the interest in long long works these days. A lack of interest which I share.
The nineteenth century novels came from a time when there was no television and people had time to read novels in three volumes.
I used to fish the Border rivers, but nowadays you have to queue up for a shot and I can't stand that.
When I talk of hearing a poet's voice speaking, I always think of it as in the presence of the man.
When I go fishing I like to know that there's nobody within five miles of me.
A terrible thing about getting oldish is that your friends start dying, and in the last ten years I have lost seven or eight of my closest.
I don't think of myself all the time.
I only keep books that I like very much. Otherwise I'd throw them out.
In some ways I'm a reticent man, and for quite a number of years there wasn't very much of my real true deep feelings in my writing.
In fact a lot of them I think are absolute baloney. Those Charles Olsens and people like that. At first I was interested in seeing what they were up to, what they were doing, why they were doing it. They never moved me in the way that one is moved by true poetry.
All those authors there, most of whom of course I've never met. That's the poetry side, that's the prose side, that's the fishing and miscellaneous behind me. You get an affection for books that you've enjoyed.
I was very interested in American poetry for many years. Much less now.
I find it's impossible for me to read Proust.
It's like breathing in and out to me. It's like having a conversation with someone who isn't there. Because it has to be addressed to somebody - not a particular person, or very rarely.
And some poets are far better read off the page because they're very bad speakers. I'm thinking of one in particular whom I won't name, a good poet, and he reads in such a dry, boring way, your eyes start drooping.
There are books up there I haven't read for many years but I wouldn't put them out. I never know when I might want to read them again.
But I hang on to books. I love them. I even think they're very nice decor in a room - far better than paintings... That's not quite true!
I used to have a great love for Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, the big boys of the last century.
Well, I'm a light traveller. I chuck things away.
More Norman MacCaig Quotations (Based on Topics)
Literature - Books - Poetry - Man - Fishing - Time - People - Name - Affection - Death & Dying - Speaking - Reasoning - Age - Friendship - Writing - Discovery & Invention - Teachers - Boredom - Sense & Perception - View All Norman MacCaig Quotations
William Butler Yeats - Walt Whitman - Virgil - Horace - Homer - William Congreve - W. H. Auden - Thomas Gray - Sylvia Plath - Octavio Paz