Information Services

About Duncan Glen

From the 1960s onwards, Duncan Glen (1933-2008) played a pivotal role in Scottish literature as poet, publisher, editor of Akros magazine, and champion of the work of Hugh MacDiarmid.

Beginnings and Professional Life

Duncan Glen was born in Cambuslang, South Lanarkshire, and educated at Ruthglen Academy. After leaving school at fifteen, he became an apprentice printer in Glasgow and Kirkcaldy, before gaining a scholarship to study at Edinburgh College of Art. Following national service as a photographic interpreter for the RAF, he became a typographic designer for HMSO and, on a freelance basis, for a number of London publishers. Glen then began an academic career as a lecturer in graphic design, first at Preston Polytechnic (subsequently the University of Central Lancashire), then at Nottingham Trent University, where he was granted the title of Emeritus Professor of Visual Communication in 1987.

Duncan Glen and Hugh MacDiarmid

Duncan Glen fell under the spell of Hugh MacDiarmid’s verse in his late teens. He first became known to the literary world through his monograph Hugh MacDiarmid and the Scottish Renaissance (1964), the first full-length critical study of the poet. Glen got to know MacDiarmid while researching the volume and established his own small press (eventually named Akros Publications) to bring forgotten works by MacDiarmid back into print and to rescue MacDiarmid from a period of neglect by publishers and critics. He published limited, hand-printed editions of Poems in Scots and An Apprentice Angel (both 1963), The Ministry of Water (1964), The Fire of the Spirit (1965), and On a Raised Beach (1967), and edited MacDiarmid’s Selected Essays for Jonathan Cape (1969). He also wrote and published further critical appreciations of MacDiarmid including Hugh MacDiarmid: Rebel Poet and Prophet (1962), Literary Masks of Hugh MacDiarmid (1964), and Hugh MacDiarmid: An Essay for 11 August 1977 (1977). An interview that Glen conducted with MacDiarmid and his second wife Valda Grieve at Brownsbank on 25 October 1968 was published as The MacDiarmids (1970). Duncan Glen also compiled a radio programme for the BBC Scottish Home Service to celebrate MacDiarmid’s 75th birthday on 11 August 1967, and later gave a talk for BBC Radio to celebrate MacDiarmid’s 80th birthday in 1972.

Glen the Poet

Duncan Glen’s own poetry, mostly written in a contemporary Scots idiom, combined the influences of Hugh MacDiarmid and the US Black Mountain school. He published many self-designed collections of his own work, amongst the most acclaimed of which were In Appearances (1971) and Realities (1980). His Autobiography of a Poet was published in 1986 and his Collected Poems followed in 2006, when it was shortlisted for the Saltire Society’s Scottish Book of the Year award. Translations of Glen’s work have appeared in Italian and Greek. As well as his own poetry, he produced a number of surveys and anthologies of Scottish literature and an impressive range of publications on other subjects, ranging from typography to local history.

The Publisher and Editor

Duncan Glen was a major champion of small press publishing. Between 1965 and 2006, over 250 publications appeared under his Akros imprint, including poetry booklets by J. K. Annand, Alan Bold, George Bruce, Maurice Lindsay, Alastair Mackie, Edwin Morgan, William Neill, Alexander Scott, Tom Scott, Iain Crichton Smith, and Gael Turnbull. He also edited Akros magazine for over 25 years, providing a much-needed platform for Scottish poets and artists. In Akros and its successor Zed 2 0, he always strove to place Scottish culture in an international context. From the 1990s onwards, Glen was largely based in Edinburgh, where he designed and edited the newsletter of the Scottish Poetry Library.

Public Recognition

In 1991, Glen received the Howard Sergeant Memorial Award in recognition of his services to poetry. His contribution to Scottish literature was also recognised by awards from the Scottish Arts Council in 1974 and 1998, and by an honorary doctorate from the University of Paisley (2000). In 2008, Philip Pacey and Tom Hubbard co-edited A Festschrift for Duncan Glen at Seventy-Five, which was presented to him at a gathering at the Scottish Poetry Library. Glen's poetry has been translated into Czech, Greek, and Italian.

Further Reading

  • Duncan Glen, The Autobiography of a Poet (Edinburgh: Ramsay Head Press, 1986)
  • Tom Hubbard and Philip Pacey (eds.) A Festschrift for Duncan Glen at Seventy-Five (Kirkcaldy: Craigarter Press, 2008)
  • Philip Pacey (ed.), Our Duncan Who Art in Trent: A Festschrift for Duncan Glen (Preston: Harris Press, 1978)

Online Resources

Includes a biographical profile, a selection of poems, and links to publications by and about Duncan Glen in the Scottish Poetry Library's online catalogue. The Scottish Poetry Library is open to everyone to use and free to join.