A lot of interpersonal interaction, with his mother, father, wife and religious elders, is presumed in MacDiarmid's poems, but isn't their immediate subject. His socialism never negates, though may be taken to try to comprehend, a Christian tenderness towards the Christ-child. He became separated from his own children—for good or ill who can say, he muses—on his divorce from their mother. MacDiarmid rarely describes visual or sensory experience directly, more often making the perception, for instance, of the white streaks on a flower a metaphor—in one case, for his semen. His proudly rebarbative socialist poems always have something admirable about them, perhaps their learning, the chewiness of their prosody or sonic textures, or the thoroughness of their commitment to poetry. MacDiarmid also threw over Scots on doctrinaire grounds, though the best English lines of the post-1935 verse seem conceived, 'heard', in Scots. A deliberately unlovely writer, MacDiarmid may be finest in his responsiveness to dim effects of light, especially at night, and the changes of the Scottish weather.
eBook Selected Poems