Poetry - New Scots Makar Announced

Jackie Kay is Scotland’s new Makar...

The appointment was announced at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh yesterday by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Ms Kay, who was awarded an MBE for her services to literature in 2006, will succeed Liz Lochhead who had been Scots Makar for five years. The position of Scots Makar – the National Poet for Scotland – was created in February 2004 by the Scottish Executive with the brief that the holder should ‘represent Scottish poetry in the public consciousness, to promote poetic creativity in Scotland, and to be an ambassador for Scottish poetry.’ Makar is the Scots word for the author of a literary work, and particularly for a poet or bard and the first incumbent was Edwin Morgan, who held the post until his death in August 2010, when it was decided that the role should be continued on a five year tenure with Liz Lochhead taking on the duties.

Jackie Kay’s appointment will see her create new work, sometimes to commemorate special events, and promote poetry throughout the country, particularly encouraging young people to engage with the art form.

She was selected from a strong shortlist prepared by a panel of literary experts, convened by Dr Robyn Marsack, the Director of the Scottish Poetry Library. The final selection was made by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and former first ministers Alex Salmond, Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale and Henry McLeish.

Ms Sturgeon said, “Poetry is part of Scotland’s culture and history, it celebrates our language and can evoke strong emotions and memories in all of us. The role of the Makar is to celebrate our poetic past, promote the poetry of today and produce new pieces of work that relate to significant events in our nation. Jackie Kay’s poems sometimes deal with challenging subjects, taken from her own life experiences, and she has a particular Scottish brand of gallus humour. She is hugely respected, is known for her poignant and honest words, and is a role model for many, and I am delighted to name her as the new National Poet for Scotland.”

Ms Kay, who is an award winning author and has also been recently elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, said “It's a tremendous honour to be chosen as Scotland's new Makar - following in the footsteps of such wonderful poets as Edwin Morgan and Liz Lochhead. As Robert Burns demonstrated, poetry holds up a unique mirror to a nation's heart, mind and soul. It is the pure language that tells us who we are. I hope to open up the conversations, the blethers, the arguments and celebrations that Scotland has with itself and with the rest of the world, using the voice of Poetry in its fine Scottish delivery.”

Dr Robyn Marsack, Director of the Scottish Poetry Library, chaired the advisory panel. She added, “The Scottish Poetry Library is delighted to be Jackie Kay’s virtual home and real support for the next five years. We know that she has a hugely enthusiastic readership in this country and beyond its borders; her poems are characterised by their warmth and empathy, sometimes fierce and sometimes funny. She will certainly be a great ambassador for poetry.”

You can find some of Jackie Kay’s poetry courtesy of the Scottish Poetry Library here.

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