2007 - 2021

Poet Required

After hearing Robert Crawford’s compelling evocation of ‘the poet as bearer of cultural tradition’ at the otherwise often dire Edinburgh Book Festival (bland, corporate, rigid, expensive) and his reading of Clan Donald’s Call to Battle at Harlaw, attention has turned to the role of who can replace the irreplaceable Edwin Morgan. Whilst some think the title of ‘Makar’ is naff and couthie, and others think that this is just Cultural Cringe 2.0, some, including Crawford, think that the post itself is made redundant by the existence of our actual exisiting national poet (a clue, he’s deid and from Ayrshire)

When pressed from the audience Crawford stated he wouldn’t name names then offered the following shortlist: Tom Leonard, Kathleen Jamie, Liz Lochead, Don Patterson.

Others have mentioned Jackie Kay, Douglas Dunn , and indeed Robert Crawford. To which Bella would add Eck Finlay, Aonghas MacNeacail and Roddy Lumsden.

It’s a good opportunity to define the role. It should be someone who can read as well as write. Poetry is a live event. The Makar should be given a budget and a free reign, should be forced to travel the world for a bit, should be allowed a generous entertainment remit and perhaps should have a four or five year ‘term’ so its not seen as a reward for our most elderly poet.

Kathleen Jamie is strong on concept and big picture (‘an upturned boat is a watershed’), Alec Finlay is a master collaborator and innovator and Tom Leonard would be brilliant – but whoever it is they should heed Crawfords advice: “Be dashing, be diligent, Be eager, be elegant, Be foxy, be ferrety, Be fervid, be furious…”


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  1. Vronsky says:

    Have to say I’ve always preferred ‘makar’ to ‘poet’ – it has a more workmanlike air to it, and Scottish poetry always had an earthier feel. A few fields of golden daffodils goes a long way with me, I’d rather have the blunt realities.

  2. Davie Park says:

    Makar is couthie?
    Neither of the syllables nor any of the letters embarass me. The phonics don’t strike me as intrinsically unsophisticated.
    So – how couthie?
    Ah, of course. ALL Scots words are couthie! Perhaps that’s why we (‘we’ excludes the hoi polloi – obviously) let a little knowing smile play around our lips when we over enunciate picturesque ‘wee’ Scottish words.

  3. Kevin W says:

    My vote is for Tom Leonard. Partly because he is now Scotland’s “greatest living poet”. And partly just to watch him rise to splendid apoplexy at the very idea of being a national poet!

  4. Sean says:

    I think Tom Leonard is brilliant and would do what any makar should do: shake us up! Maybe he wouldn’t want the job, though?

    Having a permanent position for Makar in Scotland shouldn’t be seen as a gimmick. The English have the poet laureate, we need to support our distinct and diverse poetic traditions and cultures.

  5. Sally Evans says:

    Brian Johnstone, Sheena Blackhall, Kevin Cadwallender, Kathleen Jamie … above all let’s have someone who LIVES here, please

  6. robert fae killie says:

    is this what your looking for

    by robert walker

    how oaften hae we heard their cries
    an hae ye luk’d intae their eyes
    does it come wae nae surprise,
    ye’ll need a slueth
    tae wade thru’ a’ the piles o’ lies,
    tae fin the truth

    the government, wha ur they
    tae lead us oan day tae day
    bit a’ that they huv got tae sae,
    is no sae right
    the basis that they want tae lay
    is a load o’ shite

    o’ ye keepers o’ mankind
    dae ye sleep wae peace’fu mind
    fae damnation ye declined
    tae save oor soul
    for ye made mither nature blind
    for yer ain goal

    the emission o’ co2
    is relevent tae me an you
    as politicians rant an spew
    their gospel word
    their daggers hae a blood red hue
    o’ how absurd

    the climate change is what they fight
    wae a’ their strength an a’ their might
    but it will come at day oar night
    their cruel intention
    tae releive us o’ a breathin’ space
    is ca’d extinction

    how many times hae we been told
    by politicians young an old
    we’re speedin’ up by tenfold
    the centigrade
    but who’ll raise oor pot o’ gold
    come next live aid

    the human race is bein’ blamed
    an humbled intae be’in ashamed
    tae live life like we’ve a’ been tamed
    by oor masters voice
    an many o’ us a’ think the same
    we’ve had nae choice

    dinnae beleive a’ ye read
    we cannae let them tak the lead
    for they are a’ fueled by greed
    oot for theirsel’
    a hope tae see a’ their heids
    in bleezin’ hell

    but this tae me is the ultimate sin
    ye cannae breathe oot, but only in
    for we’ll be taxed for respiratin’
    just wait an see
    for oot o’ sight this laws been writin’
    for oor poverty

    their tryin’ tae make oor poverty worse
    than any egyptian pharoh’s curse
    the co-op’s busy wae its hearse
    tae plant us a’
    a just hope theirs money in oor purse
    when we baith fa’

    but they want us a’ tae go by fire
    an stoke the pile higher an higher
    tae a mount everest o’ a pyre
    o’ common folk
    tae their kingdom o’ heaven they’ll retire
    an that’s nae joke

    sae george w bush an tony blair
    hae show’d us a’ that they don’t care
    but a think we’d better a’ beware
    o’ what they mean
    hingin’s to guid for that bloody pair
    an their war machine

    sae ministers, councilers walk on by
    ma ain front door an dinnae try
    tae fill ma heid wae a’ yer lies
    an beguiling wit
    a just think yer a’ hessian sacks
    that are fu’ o’ shit

  7. John Paul says:

    Fellow Caledonians,

    Sad to see Edwin pass.

    Who can replace him

    National Bard and National Makar are all well and good, but I’m reminded of one of Tom Leonard’s poems ; which was a poster -poem stating that there would be a meeting to decide the spelling (of the same poster).

    Scotland needs a National Poet.

    It should be Tom Leonard.

    It’s just got to be Tam Leonard.

    When I was at school, his volume “Intimate Voices” was really popular, loads of kids read it and it wasn’t on no curriculum.

    Nope : his book just got passed around and we loved because he wrote poems about Celtic and my favorite short poem…….

    “It’s an ill wind that blaws nae cunt fuck all good”.


    John Paul

  8. I’d add Carol Ann Duffy to the list. Just because she’s poet laureate doesn’t mean she’s stopped being Scottish. And if you look at her recent poems, it’s safe to say that the Queen’s shilling hasn’t corrupted her.

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