Friday, 13 May 2016

loving Jackie Kay: five of my favourites

So I'm a bit late to this party, but Jackie Kay was named as the new Makar (the Scottish Poet Laureate) back in March, there's a lovely interview with her on Woman's Hour, talking about getting the phone call from Nicola Sturgeon (the Scottish First Minister). It's early on in the programme here. So I thought I'd share five of my favourites of her poems.

First up is 'Her', a haunting poem which brings up more questions than it answers, and has a lovely rhythm to it. You can hear Jackie read it here. On the same site you can hear her read Things Fall Apart, which is a fascinating slice of an important moment in Jackie's life. I was drawn to it for the title, reminding me of Chinua Achebe's novel of the same name, taken from the line in Yeats' poem, The Second Coming: "things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;". I love the way Kay focuses in on her father and then out to the context, finally lighting on the connection between them when she says: "I think he had my hands: my father."

The first poem of Kay's that I recall reading was Lucozade, whose sad chrysanthemums draw us in to the frightening, sad, and so quiet world of the hospital. I think Lucozade is a popular poem to have as a set text for Scottish school students, which is why I'd read it in the first place. My heroine in the story I'm working on right now has troubles with those sad chrysanthemums. For future reference, I'd like a generous gin.

I adore Baggage. It has a fascinating rhyme scheme which I'm aching to try out, and I absolutely love a 'This - ' It stops you in your tracks. It's like one of those outlined things on Dora the Explorer. Stop what you're doing and pay attention because something is worth focusing in on. Glorious. I tried to use such a this in my poem 'I am not yours' (which I'm dead proud of, and you can find published online here (it's the first one), but I didn't manage the screeching to a halt, wrap your head around this fella that Kay has in Baggage. I will stop talking now because it's just going to get embarrassing.

My last choice (and it's an arbitrary one - there are so many but I'm keeping it to five) is Castletown, Isle of Man, because I used to live there. In one of those narrow cobbled streets (they cobbled them after I arrived), shopping in the Market Square, and walking those medieval castle grounds.

Do you have any favourites yourself? Did you study Lucozade?

I picked my summery FF5 picture because of the gorgeous weather we've been having (if chuffing windy) this week. How's it been with you?

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