John Burnside is one of Scotland’s best-loved living poets. He has published eight previous books of poetry, including The Asylum Dance, which won the 2000 Whitbread Poetry Award, and most recently The Light Trap, which was shortlisted for the 2002 TS Eliot prize. He has also written four novels, one of which, The Mercy Boys, won the 1999 Encore Award, and a book of stories. His latest collection, The Good Neighbour, is published by Cape on February 10.
1. Poems, Robert Henryson (c1425 – c1500)
Scotland’s answer to Chaucer may be putting it too strongly, but his Testament of Cresseid is wonderful.
2. Poems, Alexander Montgomerie (1550?-1598)
Montgomerie was ‘maistre poete’ to James VI, until he was barred from the court for his part in a mysterious intrigue. A wonderful, somewhat overlooked love poet.
3. Poems in Scots, Robert Fergusson, (1750-1774)
Burns’ favourite poet, he put together an extraordinary body of fine work before dying at the tender age of 24.
4. Complete Poems, Robert Burns ( 1759-1796)
An obvious choice, but he deserves his reputation as Scotland’s finest poet, bar none – not just for the best-known work, but for his extraordinary range.
Buy the Complete Poems at the Guardian bookshop
5. Songs, by the Ettrick Shepherd, James Hogg (1770-1835)
Overshadowed by Burns as a poet, and better known for his fiction, but the same brilliance shines through his songs and satires.
6. Collected Poems, Hugh MacDiarmid (1892-1978)
Love him or hate him, MacDiarmid is an essential poet, author of two of the finest modernist poems of the last century – A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle and On a Raised Beach – not to mention some of our finest Scots lyrics since Burns.
7. The Nightfishing, WS Graham (1918-1986)
Scotland’s best-kept literary secret for many years; now receiving his due, thanks to Faber’s marvellous New Collected Poems. The Nightfishing is an extraordinary collection, full of dark treasures and formal energy.
8. Still and All, Burns Singer (1928-1964)
Born in New York but brought up in Glasgow, Singer has still not been given his due as a poet. Annoyed a good many people while he lived, and died far too young. Challenging, intense work.
9. Voice Over, Norman MacCaig (1910-1996)
This collection was, as its title implies, his last; a beautiful, touching and witty farewell from Scotland’s best-loved poet of recent times.
10. O Choille gu Bearradh, Somhairle MacGill-Eain (1911-1996)
The collected poems of Sorley MacLean, entitled From Wood to Ridge. Our finest Gaelic poet, connecting us all – Gaelic speaking or not – to our roots in song, and in the earth.