Alan Riach is a poet and academic. His critical writings focus on the Scottish element in the literatures of Great Britain’s former colonies, and his own poetry reflects these obsessions. Riach draws on his life both in Scotland and New Zealand, his adopted homeland. He uses modern forms, from ‘projective verse’ to prose memoir, and the poems range in tone from lyric sweetness to wry sarcasm. He has published several volumes of poetry and been printed in anthologies.
FROM THE OXFORD COMPANION TO NEW ZEALAND LITERATURE
Riach, Alan (1957– ), was born in Lanarkshire in Scotland, and has devoted his writing life to making the literature of his homeland more widely known.
He took a BA at Cambridge University and his doctorate in the Department of Scottish Studies of Glasgow University. His dissertation formed the basis for his monograph Hugh MacDiarmid’s Epic Poetry (1991), which aims to reclaim MacDiarmid as an unjustly neglected poet, especially celebrating his contribution to the renaissance of Scottish literature in the 1920s–30s.
Riach is general editor of Carcanet’s multi-volume complete MacDiarmid and since 1992 has been at the University of Waikato, teaching Scottish, American and other postcolonial literatures. His critical writings focus on the Scottish element in the literatures of Great Britain’s former colonies, especially in the British Guyanese novelist Wilson Harris and in contemporary New Zealand writers.
Riach’s own poetry reflects these obsessions, drawing on his life both in Scotland and New Zealand, his adopted homeland, as well as his reading of modern English, American and Scottish writers. Deploying a wide range of modern forms, from ‘projective verse’ to prose memoir, the poems range in tone from lyric sweetness to wry sarcasm.
Riach has published four volumes of poetry in New Zealand: For What It Is (with Peter McCarey, 1986); This Folding Map (1990); An Open Return (1991); and First & Last Songs (1995). He was considered ‘NZ’ enough to qualify for Bill Manhire’s 100 New Zealand Poems (1993).
Riach has published an edition of his version of Dante's 'Inferno': From the Vision of Hell: An Extract of Dante (Akros Publications, 1998).
Poems appear in the Anthology of Scottish Literature; volume 3, edited by David McCordick, and in an exhibition of 'poster poems' at the National Museum of Scotland.
Riach's volume of poetry Clearances was published in 2001.
Representing Scotland in Literature, Popular Culture and Iconography: The Masks of the Modern Nation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) brings together a range of cultural studies. To redirect attention from the different disciplines to address the cultural productions of Scotland as comprehensive and inter-related phenomena, is the book's prerogative, from Burns to Braveheart. Nothing like it exists, attempting the trajectory of inclusiveness and yet affirming qualities of cultural distinctiveness, value and pleasure.
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Riach's doctorate was taken from the Department of Scottish Literature at Glasgow University - the only such department in existence - not the Department of Scottish Studies.
Updated January 2017.