Joseph Macleod? Listen to Britain? A wartime BBC announcer who had to disguise his Marxist poetry in the 1940s with another name – Adam Drinan. He needn’t have bothered, and later on didn’t. This briefly acclaimed poet burst on the scene with the only Marxist inflected meditation on the zodiac ever written. Macleod is like that. It, and what followed, is one of the most astonishing bodies of poetry written by a British, or even Scottish poet in the 20th century.
The self-effacing drills of Broadcasting House have never had more to answer for than this. And its rediscovery is more than a revelation. It changes things.
When in 1930 Faber published The Ecliptic, it must have seemed that they had the three leading local modernists: Eliot, Pound and Macleod. But, it was not to be. Macleod saw his second book rejected, and vanished from the scene. But, culture changed direction, and Macleod’s poetry fell into a bizarre public neglect from which this new selection is set to save him. His more successful career in avant-garde theatre can only be recaptured by an act of the imagination. From among the wealth of manuscripts in the National Library of Scotland, we recover Foray of Centaurs, his intended second book, a satiric narrative in mythical form which is conceived in term of movement and dance.
We also recover part of Script from Norway, his 1953 dialogue-poem about a documentary film crew where the politics of the image gradually takes over from the ostensible subject. He published another seven volumes: There is a vast corpus of work to explore. This is a substantial selection, made by his editor Andrew Duncan who, in a superb essay-length introduction to Macleod, places him in that curious intersection between his poetic genius and his context.