When thinking of Scotland and poetry it is likely that the name Robert Burns springs to mind. Certainly, he has become synonymous with all things Scottish and is widely regarded as the national poet of the country. Born in Dumfries in 1759 Robert published his first works of poetry in the local dialect of the Lowlands but he also wrote much of his work in English or a softer dialect more accessible to the public at large. His social and political commentaries were often direct and to the point, but it is his lyrical use of the Scottish language that endeared him most to the natives, who regarded him as their ‘son’.
Sir Walter Scott carries a similar notoriety whose literary works are published in both the Scottish and English language. Born in1771 in Edinburgh, Walter survived childhood polio the consequences of which would impact his writing. Sent to recover with his Grandparents in the countryside he was exposed to a more rural way of life and became familiar with gentle dialects of the border region. From 1805 on he published many poems capturing the public’s attention and in 1810 ‘The Lady of The Lake’ was published for which he is perhaps best known.
More recently , born in 1920 in Glasgow, has been credited with being one of Scotland’s foremost poets of recent times. He was made Poet Laureate in 1999 and in 2004 named as the first Scottish national poet. Growing up he was not overly exposed to literary influences but instinctively sought for himself books that could fuel his interests. He is perhaps most noted for the ability he has to write in numerous forms and styles across many genres and published his final work in 2010, just months before his death at 90 years of age.
Liz Lockhead was born in 1947 and is a Scottish playwright as well as poet. She held the position of National Poet between the years 2011 and 2016 and has enjoyed equal success both within the theatre and the world of poetry. She published her first work in 1971 and has been actively involved with the literary scene ever since writing and performing her poetry extensively.
Born in Edinburgh in 1961 Jackie Kay is a poet and novelist who held the position of the third National Poet of Scotland. Now living in England, she initially felt her calling was the theatre and aspired to be an actress. Following an encounter with Scottish writer and artist Alsadair Gray, who having read her poetry suggested writing was her forte, she studied English at Stirling University. Her first published poetry appeared in 1991 drawing in part on her experiences growing up as an adopted child. Subsequently Kay has gone on to receive much acclaim for her writing, winning the Somerset Maugham award and the Guardian Fiction Prize.
A contemporary of Kay, Carol Ann Duffy is a much-acclaimed Scottish playwright and poet who became the first Scot and first woman to hold the position of British Poet Laureate in 2009. Her poems are often studied in schools because they address many contemporary issues such as oppression, sexuality and violence. Many wonderful literary talents have emerged from the Scottish nation and clearly continue to do so today.