Is being Scottish a strong part of your identity? What does being Scottish mean to you?
I’m not particularly nationalistic, until someone criticises Scotland. I am Scottish and Im sure thats shaped me in all kinds of indefinable ways. Its not something Ive explored all that much. Maybe I should. That might well be a future project.
Is your poetry Scottish poetry? (as opposed to English poetry/ Welsh poetry or just plain old “poetry”)
I feel its just plain old poetry. I dont write in Scots or Gaelic and while I've written a few poems about Scottish identity, its not a theme Ive majored on. I know some of my poet-colleagues here are far more interested in doing this than I am and are influenced mainly by other Scottish poets. I like several Scottish poets John Burnside, Edwin Morgan, Norman MacCaig, Don Paterson, Roddy Lumsden they are excellent writers. But my influences come from all over Rilke (Germany), Roy Fisher (England), Simic (USA), Miroslav Holub (Czech Republic), and many others.
One wonders, first of all, what exactly the second question means. It's a fair question in it's own way, but how does one define "Scottish poetry" aside from the obvious and banal poetry written in Scotland and/or by Scots? More to the point, what does Yang-May Ooi have in mind when she asks the question and what concept does it evoke in Rob's mind as he answers it?
However, what caught my eye most was the discussion of influence. Whether or not this his intention, there is an implication in the way Rob phrases his reply to the second of those questions that his international set of influences makes him a less Scottish poet than those who "are influenced mainly by other Scottish poets". It's an implication I'd contest. There is and long has been an internationalist bent to Scottish thought and culture. By that account, those whose influences are more narrowly Scottish could actually be regarded as less Scottish than Rob with his literary internationalism.
I have to say, I'd love him to name names: not only the names of the poets whose influences are "mainly Scottish" but of the poets who influence them. It would be fascinating to see how many of those Scottish influences are good Scots internationalists. After all, to pick two of the prominent Scottish poets Rob mentions, Edwin Morgan is certainly international in outlook--witness his volume of Collected Translations, for example--and John Burnside not only looks considerably to American writers and musicians but is interested in Scandinavia.
Perhaps Rob might comment ... Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to reading the second half of the interview.