Scots Makar Jackie Kay to pen ‘epic poem’ about Scotland

Jackie Kay intends to travel the length and breadth of Scotland over her five-year term (Photo: Getty)
Jackie Kay intends to travel the length and breadth of Scotland over her five-year term (Photo: Getty)
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Scotland’s national poet is to produce an epic “state of the nation” work at the end of an ambitious five-year tour which will see her staging readings in some of the country’s most remote places.

Jackie Kay, who was appointed as Scots Makar by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier this year, intends to travel the length and breadth of the country, realising her ambition of taking poetry to some of Scotland’s most “obscure and unusual” locations.

At every stop on her journey she will write a verse about the local area, ultimately penning an epic poem about modern Scotland which could run to as many as 100 stanzas or more.

READ MORE: Jackie Kay appointed new Scots Makar

Kay’s tour, which she will formally announce at a college in Edinburgh on Thursday to coincide with National Poetry Day, has been titled “Ferlie Leed”, a Scots expression meaning “wondrous talk”.

Her trip will begin later this month in Dunoon, where Kay’s adoptive parents were arrested in the early 1960s for taking part in a demonstration against the Polaris nuclear submarine programme.

From there she will travel to the Outer Hebrides, appearing at events on North Uist and Lewis in November, before moving on to Shetland. Her tour will officially consist of 60 appearances over five years, but organisers said she could do up to 100 in total.

“I’m hoping to meet other poets and poetry lovers, young and old; people who maybe have never come to a poetry reading before,” Kay said.

“I’m really very excited about visiting Uist and Lewis for the first time. Islands are like stanzas – poetry hopefully crosses land and sea.”

She added: “I hope the weather isn’t blowing up an absolute hoolie – but I like the idea of going to Shetland and Lewis and Uist at the back end of the year.

“You can get to know a place better in the winter.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Poetry Library likened Kay’s five-year trip to Bob Dylan’s so-called “neverending tour”, which has seen the folk singer play live dates around the world almost non-stop since 1988.

“It’s slow poetry, maturing like a fine single malt,” he added. When she was appointed as Makar in March, Kay told iNews that she wanted to use her position to make poetry more accessible by staging readings in unusual places. “For every place that you might expect poetry to go, I’d also like to take poetry somewhere unexpected, whether that’s in a prison, an old people’s home or a hospital.

“Every reading at a festival will be paired with something more intimate,” she said.

Ms Sturgeon, who interviewed Kay at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this summer, has described her as a “poignant and honest” writer who also has “a particular Scottish brand of gallus humour”.

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