Kathleen Jamie has been appointed as the National Poet for Scotland, known as the Scottish Makar, taking over from Jackie Kay.
Jamie is the fourth person to take on the role, which was established in 2004 by the Scottish Parliament, with Edwin Morgan the first poet to receive the honour. Jamie was raised in Currie Midlothian and began writing poetry in her teens. She published her first booklet at the age of 20. Famous works include The Overhaul (Picador), which won the Costa Poetry Award and The Bonniest Companie (Picador), for which she won the Saltire Society 2016 Book of the Year Prize.
In more recent years she has developed as an essayist and published three books looking at ‘the confluence of nature, travel and culture’ in Findings, Sightlines and Surfacing, all published by Sort of Books. Her poems have appeared on the underground systems of London, New York and Shanghai, and another was carved on a huge wooden beam on the national monument at Bannockburn.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon formally welcomed Jamie to the role at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh this morning (18th August). The role of Makar involves taking a leadership role in promoting poetry nationally, as well as producing work relating to significant national events.
Jamie was appointed by the First Minister on the recommendation of an expert panel representing Scotland’s literary sector. However, her appointment will be for a three-year term rather than the previous five-year term, due to the demands the role places on the Makar’s time and other work, and to help "encourage greater diversity, variety and interest in the role going forward".
Sturgeon said she was "delighted" to confirm Jamie as Scotland's national poet. “Poetry is integral to Scotland’s culture and history. The Makar has a central role in celebrating that legacy, and preserving its future by encouraging the next generation of young writers to leave their mark.
“Kathleen is a highly accomplished poet who is known for her works in English and Scots, and the meaningful connections her writing draws between our lives and the landscape around us. I have no doubt she will continue to build on the exceptional work of her predecessors to promote Scottish poetry both here and abroad," she said.
Jamie said she was "honoured and delighted" to be appointed, adding: "The post confirms a weel-kent truth: that poetry abides at the heart of Scottish culture, in all our languages, old and new. It’s mysterious, undefinable and bold. It runs deep and sparkles at once.
“Liz Lochhead, Jackie Kay and the late Edwin Morgan have held this post before me, a trio of major poets. If I can achieve half of their outreach, humour and wisdom, not to mention their wonderful verse, I’ll be doing well. I am grateful to the selection panel for such a vote of confidence in my work, and to the First Minister for her endorsement and support.
“My task as I see it is to meet folk, to support and encourage poetry, to laugh and lament and witness, and occasionally speak to our national life. I’m excited to begin.”
Asif Khan, director at Scottish Poetry Library, said Jamie was "an exceptional Scottish writer of any era", adding: "The Poetry Library looks forward to supporting the new Makar’s programme of engagement at a time when poetry is treasured as an artform that can heal and unite communities, as well as inspire our young people, including New Scots, to see the world differently and reflect on their role in it."
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