Scotland’s new Makar

Published: 15 Mar 2016

Jackie Kay and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon 

Jackie Kay is Scotland’s new Makar, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

Ms Kay, who was awarded an MBE for her services to literature in 2006, will succeed Liz Lochhead as the National Poet.

The role will see Ms Kay create new work 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.

The First Minister made the announcement at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh where Ms Kay read one of her own poems, ‘Between the Dee and the Don’.

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 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.”

Aly Barr, Head of Literature, Languages and Publishing at Creative Scotland said: “Jackie Kay is one of our foremost poets. She has a lively intelligence and a wry eye for language and life which makes her writing accessible, exciting and appealing. We’re delighted at her appointment as Makar, National Poet for Scotland.”

Notes to Editors

Jackie Kay was made MBE for services to literature in 2006, and is currently Chancellor of Salford University. Her poetry collections include Darling: New and Selected Poems (2007), and Fiere (2011), which reflects on her Nigerian and Scottish heritage. Her memoir Red Dust Road (2010), which she has called a ‘love letter’ to her white adoptive parents, won the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book of the Year Award in 2011. Her latest collection, featuring poems from her residency at the Ardtornish Estate, is The Empathetic Store (Mariscat, 2015).

The Makar is appointed by the Scottish Government in an unregulated appointment.

The term is for 5 years and an annual stipend of £10,000 per annum administered by Creative Scotland will recompense the Makar for her time spent writing and attending events as part of her role.

The Scottish Poetry Library provides support to the post in terms of media handling, festival booking and web presence.

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