COMMENT: May the Muse be with the Makar

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JUST one word best describes Edinburgh Makar Christine De Luca’s plan to write and commission poems on Edinburgh’s Unsung – inspired.

She is setting out to celebrate the Capital’s seldom celebrated heroes – from sewage workers to bin men, soup kitchen volunteers to lollipop men and women, chimney sweeps to street lighting workers – and not forgetting book dusters at the National Library.

The city would grind to a halt without all the low-profile and often invisible work, much of it undertaken in the dead of night, to keep Scotland’s capital clean, safe, pleasant and functioning. The services that this army of workers provide are all too often taken for granted and certainly more deserving of public recognition.

So she has set up Edinburgh’s Unsung, “to enthuse other city poets to join me in writing poems to create a small poetic token of appreciation for those relatively unseen people who help make any city – even a literary city – function smoothly and its citizens feel a sense of communal pride, to strengthen links between literature and every-day life.”

She has achieved acclaim with works such as The Morning After, about the need for reconciliation after the Scottish independence referendum, and another about the statue of 18th-century Scottish economist Adam Smith in the Royal Mile.

The first poem in the collection – Gardyloo, about the Seafield Waste Water Plant – published in the News today Page 3 and other poems will be shared with Evening News readers.

Too often poetry, literature and the arts generally are seen as the preoccupation of aesthetes and the well-to-do.

Colin Waters, communications manager at the Scottish Poetry Library, recalled the words of the late popular poet Adrian Mitchell who charged that “most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people”. DeLuca’s latest project, says Colin, “eloquently overturns Mitchell’s argument. By commissioning a squad of poets to write about the sort of jobs that are essential to maintaining modern life but which we rarely think about, she is making an argument for poetry as the voice of the voiceless.”

It is a most worthwhile project and fully deserving of wide attention and full support. May the Muse be with her.