James Aitchison (1938-2023) was born in Stirlingshire. He published six collections of poems: Sounds Before Sleep, Spheres, Second Nature, Brain Scans, Bird-Score and the critical study, The Golder Harvester: The Vision of Edwin Muir, Foraging: New and Selected Poems.
Aitchison’s articles on the creative process and poetics have appeared in Acumen, Agenda, The Dark Horse, The David Jones Journal and The Philosopher.
What the critics wrote
Sounds Before Sleep
“In this poet’s work two important things are immediately apparent – a properly distanced compassion for people and almost everything which makes up the natural world, and a respect for language … In these good poems, feeling and poetic skill are always linked together, and the whole book is not only finely chiselled but a good augury for this poet’s next volume.”
Elizabeth Jennings, The Scotsman
“Edward Thomas is the inevitable standard by which one judges nature poetry like that of James Aitchison, whose basic materials received the more reflective and psychological shaping established by Thomas. Aitchison can stand the comparison better than most.”
Edna Longley, The Irish Times
“poems … reaching back in their clarity and straightforward strength of feeling to the work of his earlier compatriots Edwin Muir and Norman Cameron. Even this praise does no justice to Aitchison’s individuality. ‘I Watched You Walking’ and ‘Three Poems In March’ are tender love poems, while Interlude: Heloise And Babington and Antarctica are successful attempts to make poetry do some of the things usually left to the novel these days.”
Robert Nye, The Times
“Bravo, then, for those who persist in bringing out Scottish poetry. Without the Scottish Cultural Press, we’d have been denied the virtuosity of James Aitchison’s brilliant and moving Brain Scans, … technically adroit, deeply felt, and artistically mature.”
Donny O’Rourke, The Herald
“with James Aitchison, there is always a sense of an intelligent and kindly interlocutor.”
Richard Price, PN Review