Jackie Kay Appointed Makar

Congratulations to Jackie Kay on being appointed as our new Makar. We’re delighted here in Gutter Towers to have an unexpected victor emerge from the Poetry Thunderdome, particularly one whose poetry, drama and prose we’ve enjoyed for so long.

Jackie Kay’s poetry has always been both accessible and deceptively complex as it wrestles with friendship, identity, sex, love and communism. She is able to write with a stark honesty and poignancy that marks her out, and we think we can confidently predict that Jackie’s work as Makar won’t shy away from the legacy Lochhead and Morgan established of squaring up to politics, politicians, and public debate in Scotland and flying the flag for a poetry that that’s alive and kicking – rather than one that just kicks about in the dusty corridors of Edinburgh and Gilmorehill. (We also believe that Jackie Kay is not a member of the SNP, a fact that one of Gutter’s editors will be delighted about).

It’s a bold new start for Scottish Poetry with Jackie Kay as Makar and Asif Khan in charge of the Poetry Library, and we’re excited and hopeful that the two of them will bring a new energy and internationalism to the scene – building on the fantastic work of Liz Lochhead and Robyn Marsack. We also hear rumours that Jackie and Asif planned the takeover many moons ago in the union bar at Stirling Uni. So, they’ve had time to plan.

Now, for all of you that enjoy some stats: despite having had 7 times as many laureates as Scotland, the UK is lagging seriously behind Scotland in the representation stakes. 66.6% of Scots Makars have been working class – compared to 5% of UK laureates; 66.6% have been openly gay – compared to 5% for the UK; 66.6% have been women, another 5% for GB there; and 33.3% of Makars have been from a non-white background – as opposed to a shocking 0% of Poets Laureate. We’re not suggesting Scotland rest on its laurels, there’s plenty more work to be done here. But the high heid yins down in that London may want to take note of Adrian Mitchell’s words: ‘most people ignore most poetry, because most poetry ignores most people.’

And finally, if you don’t know Jackie Kay’s work, go out and buy The Adoption Papers,and Life Mask now. Need something quicker than that, have a read of the wonderful ‘The Shoes of Dead Comrades.’