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Poems, Stories and Writings

Margaret Tait

Edited by Sarah Neely

Foreword by Ali Smith

Poems, Stories and Writings
10% off all versions
Categories: 20th Century, British, Film, Scottish, Women
Imprint: Fyfield Books
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (256 pages)
(Pub. Apr 2012)
£14.99 £13.49
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(Pub. Apr 2012)
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  • Description
  • Excerpt
  • Author
  • Contents
  • Reviews
  • Flame

    One day I
    Lit a fire
    At which I
    Boiled eggs
    Made tea
    Dried my shoes
    And I sat
    On a stool
    The stickes catch and flame
    Quite a while
    It seems,
    Until the whole pile I'd gathered had all burnt away.

    Is a thing I
    Always wonder about.
    It seems to be made of colour only.
    I don't know what else it's made of.

    Click here to listen to Margaret Tait's reading of Flame.

    Margaret Tait (1918-1999) was a pioneering filmmaker for whom words and images made the world real. In 'documentary', she wrote, real things 'lose their reality ... and there's no poetry in that. In poetry, something else happens.' If film, for Tait, was a poetic medium, her poems are works of craft and observation that are generous and independent in their vision of the world, poems that make seeing happen.

    Sarah Neely, Lecturer in Film at the University of Stirling, draws on Tait's three poetry collections, her book of short stories, her magazine articles and unpublished notebooks to make available for the first time a collection of the full range of Tait's writing. Her introduction discusses Tait as filmmaker and writer in the context of mid-twentieth-century Scottish culture, and a comprehensive list of bibliographic and film resources provides an indispensible guide for further exploration.
    Foreword by Ali Smith
    A Note on the Text


    from origins and elements (1959)

    Reading about Rimbaud
    ‘It’s a mistake to write a poem that seems more certain’
    A Fire
    ‘Protected in my little house’
    To Anybody at All
    Four or Ninety or ∞ or what
    Lezione di Recitazione
    ‘ “Don’t meet,” they say to me’
    The Unbreakable-Up
    Cave Drawing of the Water of the Earth and Sea
    Hooray, Hooray, Hoo Ray Ray Ray
    Sprung Sonnet
    Ay, Ay, Ay, Dolores

    from Subjects and Sequences (1960)

    Standing Stones of Stenness
    Then, Oh Then, Oh Then
    Edward Nairn, Poet
    Kulgin the Helicopter
    But why not try this method
    A Poem for a Morning
    Pavement Artist
    from Short Poems on Blue Paper
    Historical Sense
    The Old Lady of Loth
    One World, One Sun
    You Heard What the Minister Said, Pet
    ‘The eyebright was for you’
    Mary, Queen of Scots

    from The Hen and the Bees (1960)

    The Scale of Things
    For Using
    Spring 1958
    Remains that Have Been Tampered With
    Queen of Fact and Story
    Story-telling Queen
    Sea-going King’s Queen
    The Queen and All the Children
    A Queen in Prison
    Other Gods, Other Ways
    Loki Beside the Standing Stone
    By the Book
    Sound of Children Sobbing

    Uncollected and Unpublished Poems

    One is One
    Studentessa (The Little Tourist in Rome)
    The Window Boxes
    Seeing’s Believing and Believing’s Seeing
    Word Song
    That’s Them off on Their Spring Forays
    Drawing in Pen and Ink
    The Sky of Your City
    Why Did They Go?
    The Raven Banner
    Concha Orcadensis
    This Now
    Free for All
    from a twenty-seven-page ‘Examination into the meaning of fire’
    Il Mago
    In Olden Days
    Winter Solstice
    What is it that’s wonderful about the photograph?
    The Boats at Droman
    Redefinition of a Lame Duck
    Orquil Burn


    The Incomers
    The Song Gatherer
    Sixteen Frames per Second


    On Rossellini
    Portrait of a Lady in a Green Dress
    Independence: Small Budget Production in Rome
    On Throwing a Film Festival
    Close-up of Rose Street
    Two-way Drift
    Colour Poems 1974
    Film-poem or Poem-film: A few notes about film and poetry
    from Margaret Tait
    Video Poems for the 90s (working title)


    Works by Margaret Tait
    Selected Bibliography
    Selected Filmography
    Index of Poem Titles
    Index of Poem First Lines


    The title page reproduces the heartbeat emblem which Margaret Tait used in her three poetry collections.
    Margaret Tait at Slow Bend, Helmsdale, 1960s. Copyright © Alex Pirie
    Gerda Stevenson as Greta in Blue Black Permanent (1992), Courtesy of BFI
    Still from On the Mountain (1974), ‘Jungle Skins Rule’. Courtesy of Scottish Screen Archive, National Library of Scotland / copyright © Alex Pirie
    Still from Orquil Burn (1955). Courtesy of Scottish Screen Archive, National Library of Scotland / copyright © Alex Pirie
    Stella Cartwright in Palindrome (1964). Courtesy of Scottish Screen Archive, National Library of Scotland / copyright © Alex Pirie
    Robert Garioch, Edwin Morgan and Margaret Tait, Richard Demarco Gallery, Edinburgh Arts, 1972. Courtesy of The Richard Demarco Digital Archives
    Portrait of Margaret Tait by Gunnie Moberg. Courtesy the Orkney Archive / copyright © Tam MacPhail
    Still from Tailpiece (1976). Copyright © Alex Pirie
    Cover of origins and elements (1959). Design by Peter Hollander
    Cover of Subjects and Sequences (1960)
    Cover of The Hen and the Bees (1960). Design by Robin Philipson
    Still from Where I Am Is Here (1964), ‘The Bravest Boat’. Courtesy of Scottish Screen Archive, National Library of Scotland / copyright © Alex Pirie
    Cover of Lane Furniture (1959)
    Peter Hollander and Margaret Tait, Perugia, 1952. Copyright © Alex Pirie
    Still from My Room (1951). Courtesy of Scottish Screen Archive, National Library of Scotland / copyright © Alex Pirie
    Margaret Tait
    Margaret Tait was born in Orkney in 1918. After qualifying in Medicine from Edinburgh University in 1941, she joined the Royal Army Medical Corps, serving in India, Sri Lanka and Malaya, before returning to Orkney in 1946. She studied filmmaking in Rome from 1950-52, at the height of Neorealism. Returning to ... read more
    Sarah Neely
    Sarah Neely is a lecturer in Film in the School of Arts and Humanities at the University of Stirling. She is working on a monograph on Margaret Tait. ... read more
    Ali Smith
    Ali Smith was born in Inverness in 1962 and went on to study at the University of Aberdeen, and then Newnham College, Cambridge. She taught at the University of Strathclyde before becoming a full-time writer. She has received much critical acclaim for her work: Smith’s first publication, a short story collection ... read more
    'Neely's book is an essential complement for anyone interested in Tait's work. For some people Margaret Tait's poems will be her finest achievement.'
    Michael Romer, University of Edinburgh Journal
    'A writer whose openness of mind, voice and structure all come from the Beats maybe, and Whitman crossed with MacDiarmid, but then cut their own original (and crucially female) path. A remarkable critical forerunner, a unique and underrated filmmaker, there's nobody like her.'
    Ali Smith
    'The best 20th century Scottish female experimental poet and film-maker that we have probably never heard about.'
    The Literateur
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