Hey everyone Whilst looking through my facebook I couldn’t resist this literary challenge in this status posted by my good friend Jim Monaghan. The rules of the challenge are and don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen authors including poets who’ve influenced you and that will always stick with you. List the first 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Tag at least 15 friends, including me, because I’m interested in seeing what authors my friends choose. To do this, copy this intro and start your list. Mine are (1)Robert Burns (2) Edwin Morgan (3) Des Dillon (4) Liz Lochhead (5) John Steinbeck (6) Louise Bagshawe (7) Marian Keyes (8) Seamus Heaney (9 ) Charles Dickens (10) Arthur Miller (11) Carol Anne Duffy (12) William McIlvaney (13) Roddy Doyle (14) Sophia Blackwell (15) Alan Spence.
I think you’ll agree that the list has a very strong bias in three particular areas. With Scotland poetry, and working class writing being the areas in question. It is safe to say that no-one can doubt my patriotism with Scots taking 7 of the 15 places on the list compared with 3 each from England and Ireland and 2 from the USA. However the list does I think reflect an even greater bias in the other two areas. I would say that between 85 to 90 percent of those selected were born in to working class backgrounds though have enjoyed middle class lifestyles, and slightly more than half the list are poets or have written poetry though I grant you that some of them like Alan Spence and Des Dillon may be better known for other work including novels, short stories and screen plays
You may also notice that my list has a very strong contemporary flavour. This I have to was a deliberate choice as I like to make sense of the time I live in. This to me makes sense as a writer is after all the diarist of today and the historian of tomorrow as we attempt to give the reader a flavour of our time.
There were what some would call classic writers included in the list such as Robert Burns, Charles Dickens, Arthur Miller and John Steinbeck. I do have to say however that I prefer to read about the world I live in, whether it be the ruthless upper class career girls of Louise Bagshawe in the brilliant Venus Envy which has to be my favourite novel of all time, or the crazy chaotic capers of the Rabbite family in the Barrytown trilogy of which the Van was actually my favourite read.
I also love the way that Alan Spence and Des Dillon bring the Govan and Coatbridge of their formative years to life by mixing that well known West of Scotland cocktail of sectarianism and sensitivity. Then is the poetic genius and humanity of Robert Burns the contrasting Glasgow’s of poets such as Edwin Morgan and Liz Lochhead. I could go on all night about these writers and many others who did not make the list but would have comfortably found a place if like the music charts in the 1970’s it had been a top 30.
Had that been the case there were would certainly have been places for A L Kennedy, Magi Gibson, James Kelman, Robert Service, Tom Leonard, John Cooper Clarke, Wilfred Owen, Grace Nicholls, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, George Orwell, William Shakespeare, Sean O’Casey, Christina Rosetti, Pablo Neruda, and our very own Jenny Lindsay who is and I’ll change my mind for nobody the best poet in Scotland today. However I was challenged to name the first 15 and that’s what I’ve done, though now I’ve reflected for a wee while there are some people who will say my second 15 is stronger than my original list. What do you think? I’d like to know and more than that I’d like to know your choices. This is especially true if you are you one of the 15 people I shall now tag to complete the requirements of this post.
Love And Best Wishes