In the past weeks, Scotland, – ‘Who is ‘Scotland’ when things like this happen?’ – appointed a new Scots Makar – see below – to take a line of their own and spread the word of, mostly poetry, across Scotland. It’s a good thing but as always could be more effective across wider demographies. To be fair it’s a spare time thing for said appointee so go figure. The Makar will also be commissioned to write longish pieces about opening, closing, celebrating, and commiserating events, moments.
I’m not an academic or very well read poetry observer. I would say though that since 2004, Edwin Morgan and since, we have set bar high every time.
A position of national laureate entitled The Scots Makar, was established in 2004 by the Scottish Parliament. The first appointment was made directly by the Parliament in that year when Edwin Morgan received the honour to become Scotland’s first ever official national poet. He was succeeded in 2011 by Liz Lochhead. Jackie Kay was announced as the third holder of this post in 2016.
In August 2021 Kathleen Jamie was announced as the fourth holder of the post.
Love rules. Love laughs. Love marches. Love
is the wolf that guards the gate.
Love is the food of music, art, poetry.
Friendship is a real boat,
Clydebuilt like the best of them,
pride and strength in every rivet and spot weld.
A vessel to last lifetimes, to carry a bond
not severed ever by distance.
She is that guid tae me so she is
an Am a burden tae her, I know Am ur.
Stuck here in this big blastit bed
year in, year oot, ony saint wuid complain.
Source all Scottish Poetry Library
Kathleen Jamie is the new Makar
Jamie has a decent back programme, includes,
The Bonniest Companie a profile of Scotland
The Bonniest Companie is a visionary response to a year shaped and charged by both local and global forces, and will stand as a remarkable document of our times. Jackie Kay
“2014 was a year of tremendous energy in my native Scotland, and knowing I wanted to embrace that energy and participate in my own way, I resolved to write a poem a week, and follow the cycle of the year.’ The poems also venture into childhood and family memory – and look to ahead to the future.” KJ
I met Kathleen on a writing retreat, a quietly strong and assertive woman. She offered one to one tutorials for us humble participants. She did not gush or enthuse about my work, she showed something opposite to that, practice harder I recall. Good to keep expectations under wraps. She read some of her work and it needed concentration. I could see the differences of course. Ah well, onwards.
Having a national Makar is fine but it does repeat what Scotland does all the time while shouting we’re all Jock Tamsons bairns, that is, create an elite, even if the individuals don’t play the role.
Roles should be tumbled down. High heid yins need not be lost!
Some of the cities have their own Makar – but its the towns and schools that could do this – a school makar – some imagination needed but surely worthwhile? Make it ok to speak and read poetry. Have poetry conventions, school slams and class projects. Avoid poetry groups who ask ‘have you been published’ all of the time. Just read peoples stuff!!!! If you enjoy, then fine. Granted, most ideas have been done once at least somewhere. More reason to get on the creative express though.
The Borders Book Festival is pending, November, delayed from June, Covid etc. This will bring the literary elite out in acres of beige linen suits and floral dresses as the Prosecco glasses chunk along – plastic – as the high heels sink into Abbotsford house lawns. Good people watching fun. There will be a sprinkling of poetry around. I am often disappointed with poetry readings, 2 out of 3 could be better, good ones stick out a mile. Poets should look, as an option, to another reader/actor. I’m sure they would benefit, as would their work.
Enjoy your writing!