One day I Lit a fire At which I Boiled eggs Made tea Dried my shoes And I sat On a stool Watching The sticks catch and flame Quite a while It seemed, Until the whole pile I’d gathered had all burnt away. Flame Is a thing I Always wonder about. It seems to be made of colour only. I don’t know what else it’s made of.
Margaret Tait was one of Britain's most unique and individual film makers. She produced over 30 films, including one feature, Blue Black Permanent (1992), and Hugh MacDiarmid: A Portrait. She described her films as 'film poems'. She also published three books of poetry, origins and elements (1959), The Hen and the Bees: Legends and Lyrics (1960), and Subjects and Sequences (1960).Read more about this poet
Margaret Tait reading 'Flame', an uncollected poem included in Poems, Stories and Writings, edited with an introduction by Sarah Neely (Manchester: Carcanet, 2012). This recording is made available online with the permission of the Estate of Margaret Tait and is © Alex Pirie. Image of Margaret Tait, in the projection room at Filmhouse, Edinburgh 1992 © Alex Pirie.
These recordings have been digitised from tape recordings made by Tait at various points throughout her life. Some were produced to send to her friend in New Delhi, Saulat Rahman (who also starred in Tait’s film, Three Portrait Sketches, 1951). Recordings were also likely to have been made for radio. Tait’s work occasionally featured on Radio Orkney and there were also suggestions that her poems and stories were aired in the US. Peter Hollander, a US-based filmmaker and co-founder of Ancona Films, wrote to Tait in February 1960 with news that a professor in Boston wanted to do a radio program on Tait’s poems and stories for a series called ‘Reading I’ve Liked’. While it is not known if this proposal was ever realised, it is likely that the recordings were made with this kind of project in mind.
The recordings were digitised in 2011 with funding from the AHRC.
Dr Sarah Neely, University of Stirling