'Hugh MacDiarmid reads his own poem'. Recorded in Dublin by Peter Hunt Studios. Released by Claddagh Records in 1970. Original mint vinyl.
A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle is a long poem by Hugh MacDiarmid written in Scots and published in 1926. It is composed as a form of monologue with influences from stream of consciousness genres of writing. A poem of extremes, it ranges between comic and serious modes and examines a wide range of cultural, sexual, political, scientific, existential, metaphysical and cosmic themes, ultimately unified through one consistent central thread, the poet's affectively charged contemplation, looking askance at the condition of Scotland. It also includes extended and complex responses to figures from European and Russian literature, in particular Dostoevsky and Nietzsche, as well as referencing topical events and personalities of the mid-1920s such as Isadora Duncan or the UK General Strike of 1926. It is one of the major modernist literary works of the 20th century. One of the most distinctive features of the poem is its language. MacDiarmid's literary Scots is principally rooted in his own Borders dialect, but freely draws on a wide range of idiom and vocabulary, both current and historic, from different regions of Scotland. The work, though sometimes loose and idiosyncratic, did much to increase awareness of the potential for Scots as a medium of universal literary expression at a time when this was not well appreciated. Its expressive drive is integral to the entire effect of the poem. MacDiarmid claimed for his poem national literary ambitions similar to those Joyce did for Ulysses in Ireland.
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