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Thinking out loud on the Scottish Set Texts

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TSR's new app is coming! Sign up here to try it first >> 17-10-2016
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    Who am I?

    I am someone who has been a member of this forum for a number of years. Up to now I have simply contributed where a topic has interested me. I am a retired Charter English teacher who - even having been retired for four years - I still have an active and profound interest in the teaching of English.

    I need to be up front that I have a professional interest in the subject and I have a business that sells products on the Scottish Set Texts. A teacher who uses my material recently commented to me that - in her view - there is nothing on the market of a similar quality. If members want to see the range of units I have prepared then there is a link below.

    So - though the purpose of this series is to assist members with this topic - there is a point beyond which I will not go:-
    I will not repeat so much information that it will make it redundant to purchase my materials.
    However I am passionate about the subject and I feel there is still much I can say on the topic of the Scottish Set Texts that I feel will be of interest and help.

    I will also be addressing current issues such as the N5 and Higher exam and how to approach best to approach those exams.

    I am eager to be involved in debate. I am happy to use this site - not just to discuss a variety of Scottish Set Texts subjects - but also to assist students in learning the subject and the best way to present themselves for the upcoming exam in 2017.

    The first topic - which will be posted at the same time as this - is “Initial thinking about Don Paterson.”

    Link to the Catalogue of Titles:-
    • Thread Starter

    Deleted by author. A repeated and poorly formatted of the intended post
    • Thread Starter

    Initially thinking about Don Paterson
    I was late to Don Paterson and - until a customer urged me to write materials on him - I probably was not going to write materials on him. I have completed the first two poems “The Ferryman’s Arms” and “Nil Nil.” As I commented to the member who urged me to write these materials I was convinced nothing would be more difficult than Sorley MacLean. Well boy was I wrong. It has taken me over two months to get my head around two poems, and I am taking a sabbatical before writing notes on the remaining four poems.

    I believe Don Paterson is very similar to Sorley MacLean: both have an intrinsic quality that needs to fully understood in order to understand the poet’s poetry. In the case of Sorley MacLean it required a detailed understanding of Scottish landscapes. Sorley MacLean had an encyclopaedic understanding of Scottish landscape particularly that of Nineteenth Century Rassay. Without such an understanding of these landscapes - it is my opinion - you will not fully understand his poetry. I had to write a dictionary unit on the meaning of the landscape references in his six poems.

    So what is the difficulty with Don Paterson? Speaking only for myself, it is the problem of understanding [ or separating ] Don Paterson the poet and Don Paterson the poetic critic and literary philosopher. These are not inseparable and distinct worlds. It took me quite some time to discover where Don Paterson the poetic critic and literary philosopher was speaking to-and-for Don Paterson the poet. I am aghast at the dearth of material on this very fine poet. But maybe it is explainable: maybe those who have written notes [ that can readily be found on the internet ] have either miss understood there is a link between Don Paterson the poet and Don Paterson the poetic critic and literary philosopher or have just ignored it.

    Let me put this simply. What on earth does “Nil Nil” mean? And to a sense does that question also relates to “The Ferryman’s Arms.” The answer is that both poems are linked to the philosophical idea of the “game/contest” theory and notion. Anyone wanting to understand these two works by Don Paterson needs to be familiar with Don Paterson’s essays particularly:
    The Lyric Principle
    Don Paterson’s lecture “The Dark Art of Poetry

    You might ask why??? Well I will answer that by giving away one of the secrets that allowed me entry into “Nil Nil.” In the “Dark Art of Poetry” Don Paterson commented that “certain nomadic Saharan tribes are charged with memorising the location of the waterholes, in way that will not betray them to others.” Don makes clear that poetry is being charged with a significant responsibly: the guarding of the location of water wells from others. The loss of this secret would have fundamental implications for the tribe. It is not surprising then that Don Paterson advocates the learning of poems. By learning poems the heritage of human endeavour can be handed down from one generation to another. And so, although this poem has other themes of equal importance, one of the poem's themes is about memory and how poetry can aid memory: in this case the importance of the history Scottish Football.

    In addition it is important to understand who Francois Aussemain is. He is an invented maìtre that Don Paterson has used a number of times within his poetry.In the four volumes - from which the six set poems come from: “Nil Nil”; “Landing Light”; “God's Gift to Women” and “Rain” - Francois Aussermain is introduced four times. It is a means by which Don Paterson the poetic critic and literary philosopher can subtlety involve himself within the work, its themes and ideas of Don Paterson the poet.

    Therefore Francois Aussemain is the means by which Don Paterson the poetic critic and literary philosopher can involve himself in the work of Don Paterson the poet. In a series of notes that can be readily found on the internet the author of those notes ignores - or makes cliched reference to to this statement. Those lines are the gateway into the poem and are ignored by the student wanting to understand what Don Paterson means at their peril.

    “Nil Nil” is not just about Scottish football: it is about poetry and the importance Don Paterson places on the function of poetry within society. Put another way, “Nil Nil” is a metaphor for poetry and its purpose within our society.

    Towards the end of the poem Don comments on the unknown pilot. Just like in the past Aberdeen football had been a success in Scottish football history so this pilot had been a victor the previous night where his squadron had apparently all been shot down - on April 1st with all the humour that involves - however on April 2nd this pilot also crashes and dies. The link is again a link to Don Paterson the poetic critic and literary philosopher. Don Paterson sees poetry as having a widespread function and purpose. Poetry reflects our cultural history and heritage: it is the means to link Scottish football and important historical events such as WWII.

    Although I have yet to get to the sonnets, I am convinced the meaning of these two poems is closely linked with what Don has written on the sonnet and its function within english poetry.

    In thinking about the poetry of Don Paterson, to have an appreciative understanding of Don Paterson the poet I believe the student needs to also understand Don Paterson the poetic critic and literary philosopher. It is my belief that the two are intrinsically bound to each other and to understand one it is required to appreciate the other.
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