Christine De Luca to become new Edinburgh Makar

Christine De Luca writes in English and Shetlandic

Christine De Luca writes in English and Shetlandic

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A POET from Shetland is set to be installed as the Capital’s next Makar.

Christine De Luca will become Edinburgh’s fourth poet laureate once culture chiefs approve her nomination next week.

She will follow in the footsteps of outgoing incumbent Ron Butlin, below, and predecessors Stewart Conn and Valerie Gillies, who have all used the post to celebrate poetry across the city.

Born in Shetland and brought up in Waas on the west side of the mainland, the writer, now 67, has spent the past five decades as an Edinburgh resident.

She said: “It’s quite mad, isn’t it? I’m probably the most improbable candidate you can think of. I’m a Shetlander, although I have lived nearly 50 years in Edinburgh, which is a much longer time than I spent in Shetland, but then your childhood and youth are such an important part of your development.”

Ms De Luca has carved out an award-winning literary career thanks to a unique body of work which shifts effortlessly between English and Shetlandic. She said that, with rapid growth in the size and number of Edinburgh’s minority communities, her island upbringing would help her connect with the city.

“I have a dual identity,” she said. “To begin with, I kept the two aspects of my life quite separate. But that’s all gone now – I write in whichever language comes to the poem. I might write about Edinburgh in dialect and then write about Shetland in English. My work involves both languages equally and that’s something I would like to help with – people feeling good about their mother tongue.”

Selected by representatives from the Edinburgh Unesco City of Literature Trust, the Scottish Poetry Library and the Scottish Centre of PEN International, among other organisations, Ms De Luca was nominated to become Makar after a rigorous selection process.

And as poet laureate, she will be required to write one poem each year on Edinburgh and aspects of life in the city.

She admitted to feeling a little “daunted” at the prospect of taking the baton from her predecessors.

“The three previous Makars were all very active and very distinguished poets in their own right,” she said. “When I found out about the nomination, my reaction was one of shock, apprehension and delight – following these three is actually quite daunting. I just have to live in hope that I will be able to do the tasks that come my way well and that they will make a difference.”

Ms De Luca’s nomination has been warmly welcomed by city chiefs, who said she would help inspire thousands across the Capital.

Councillor Richard Lewis, culture leader, said: “Christine De Luca is an accomplished and prize-winning poet whose writing is a fascinating mixture of English and Shetland dialect, which includes elements of old Scots and Norse.

“She is the latest addition to an illustrious group of writers who have filled this exciting role over the last decade, each benefiting the city.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com