The Ecliptic – by Joseph Macleod (Waterloo Classic Texts 2023)


The Waterloo Press Classic Texts re-issue of Joseph Macleod’s impactful 1930 book-length poem, The Ecliptic, edited and with an introduction by James Fountain, is now happily available.
The beautiful cover illustrations are photographs by Adrian Stokes from the his books The Quattro Cento and The Stones of Rimini. These and their accompanying illustrations impacted on the verse of this book, and the use of which Fountain gained kind permission from his son, Telfer. Since Joseph and Adrian were such friends it is very fitting.
Writer, researcher, poet, and educationalist, Fountain presents a re-edited edition of this much overlooked but crucially positioned text, and has included his own scholarly introduction. The book is a must for any bookshelf that is tiredly sagging under the weight of the more usual suspects’ poetry of the period.
Fountain continues to edit and introduce Macleod’s vital poetry for a contemporary audience after publishing The Drinan Trilogy (2012), and the ground-breaking critical volume – also edited and
introduced with Andrew Duncan, Hidden Sun: The Poetry of Joseph Macleod (1903 – 1984)(2022), both published by Waterloo Press.
Waterloo Press is excited to continue to re-issuing Macleod’s published works. His novel, Overture to Cambridge (1936), and Women of the Happy Island (1944) are potentially next, and then all his works will be available to buy in modern editions.

Joseph Macleod’s first long poem, entitled The Ecliptic, and completed in 1930, was regarded by Basil Bunting as ‘the best thing since The Waste Land [1922]. Pre-publication, Ezra Pound insisted its worth to TS Eliot, Poetry Editor of Faber and Faber. It was released alongside WH Auden’s first collection, Poems. It is not difficult to see why it generated such excitement. The diction is mesmerising, its wordplay and symbolism simply staggering for so young an author (Macleod was 26 years old at the time of completion). He divides his poem into the houses of the Zodiac using the ‘Houses’ to separate twelve Cantos, or phases, and to generate symbols which interlink as a single consciousness passes through life. As he explains in his Preface, ‘the poets of the day shrink from long poems’. Macleod certainly did not.


ISBN: 978-1-915241-07-8 Category: Tags: , ,

Praise and Poems

‘…We encounter the brute force of an unfamiliar object. The objects closest to us are utterly alien. And this radical unfamiliarity is delivered through wholly conventional means […] The poem offers the promise of meaning, but this meaning is persistently deferred.’
Richard Owens, editor of the USA reprint of The Ecliptic (Flood Editions, 2016)
The ‘[…] primary instinct of authentic poetry is present, in several degrees, in the recent work of three Englishmen – Macleod, Auden, and Bunting – who not only reproach, by their courage, most English literary endeavor of the past thirty years, but possibly give the direction by which English poets of the coming decade may be guided.’
Morten Dauwen Zabel (former editor of Poetry (Chicago)
‘No contemporary poet is more ambitious than Macleod, only two or three are as able […]’
Delmore Schwartz (American Poet, 1913-1967)
‘There is a doctrine that everything – in British poetry – went wrong in 1930 and was only revived in the 1960s, leaving the Mid Century as a kind of swamp, a dump which had flooded. The Ecliptic, finished in 1929, is a last light of the departing 1920s and that richness of diction and freedom of critique.’
Andrew Duncan

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