Norman MacCaig's Poetry
Support for studying English GCSE and A Level
Norman MacCaig - Biography
Norman MacCaig was born (Edinburgh, Scotland) on 14 November 1910 and died on 23 January 1996 (Edinburgh, Scotland). He was a poet and teacher. MacCaig’s poetry is renowned for humour and simplicity of language.
MacCaig’s parents were Robert and Joan. He was their fourth child and only son. MacCaig studied classics at the University of Edinburgh, achieving an MA in 1932.
MacCaig was a pacifist – an outspoken conscientious objector during the Second World War. Some argue this affected his career.
MacCaig spent most of his time between Edinburgh and Assynt in the Scottish Highlands. He often gave public poetry readings in Edinburgh, which were popular. MacCaig was a prolific writer and many of his poems were still being discovered after his death in 1996, aged eighty-five.
Norman MacCaig - 'Summer Farm' - Annotation
Annotation prompts for Norman MacCaig’s ‘Summer Farm’.
‘Summer Farm’ firstly focuses on the detail of the farm before exploring a metaphysical world.
Norman MacCaig (14.11.1910 – 23.01.1996) was a poet from Edinburgh, Scotland. He also spent time in the Scottish Highlands. MacCaig studied classics at university and was a conscientious objector during World War Two. He admired the 17th century metaphysical poet John Donne, and his own poetry has been labelled Metaphysical. MacCaig described his religious beliefs as ‘Zen Calvinism’, showing his humorous yet serious approach to life.
Consider the way the poem moves from physical to imaginative realm. At what point does imaginative take over? Does awareness that the opening was always a memory explain ways the farm was described? At what point(s) in speaker’s life do you think farm featured? Why might it be so important to him / her? To what extent is the farm merely a vehicle for a reflection on speaker’s selfhood: idea that the poem was never about the farm at all (title is misleading).
The annotation prompts are a supportive tool, intended to encourage further analysis and interpretation.