15 Mar 2016

Jackie Key is Scotland's Makar

Jackie Kay Scots Makar
Makar Kay
Welcome to the Scots Makar, Jackie Kay! We are so happy that she was chosen for this role as she is a popular poet in both senses of the word.

A makar is a term now used in Scottish literature for a poet or bard, sometimes applied to a region or language  - Stirling Makar, Scots Makar, Dundee Makar.

The word highlights the role of the poet as someone skilled in the crafting of poetry and is normally applied to poets writing in Scots although it need not be exclusive to Scottish writers. I think the makar is expected to be an ambassador of sorts, but the hope is that as with Liz Lochhead, Jackie Kay will also work wonders with children, and help introduce them to poetry.

As far as the term makar goes, William Dunbar even referred to the English poets Chaucer, Lydgate and Gower as makars.
And recently we found out that a few people didn't know what a makar was ... but more curiously, there were others who did know what it referred to  ... but thought makar might not be an appropriate title for this job, and that National Poet may be more fitting.

The Courier (15.03.16) reported: "Robyn Marsack, the outgoing director of the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh, explained that the first Makar Edwin Morgan was uncomfortable with the title."

Having a look at how the makars themselves used the word makar is no less instructive as they appear to have used it almost exclusively in their work to refer to the Lord on High.

Thse are the examples available through a search of this book:

The Makars By Jacqueline Tasioulas
Published by Canongate Books.

Foremost in this volume, and the two to use the word makar in their own work are Robert Henryson and William Dunbar.

makar scots

makar scots robert henryson


makar scots william dunbar

The word makar doesn't appear to be in John Jamieson's Etymological Dictionary of the Scots Language, which is the most arcane and high of all the auld dictionaries of the Scotch. This is odd.

John Jamieson does however define the verb to baird:

scots makar bard

So you can see that if Scotland wished for someone to caparison its people with scolding and invective, it would have appointed one of its many bloggers as its makar. Yes there are plenty to choose from!

But Scotland seeks a makar that is not prone to any rayling although the rayling shall continue apace, in the meantime, I am sure, on the blogs and social media.

Congratulations once more to Jackie Kay!

Jackie Kay on Wikipedia

Jackie Kay on Twitter