Blog Our Sweet Old Etcetera

Behind the scenes at the Scottish Poetry Library

The Thursday Post: Scottish Poets on our website

a snapshot of our poets section
a snapshot of our poets section

Are you familiar with our online guide to Scottish poets? We have over 400 entries for poets who are or were Scottish by birth or residence: living or dead, major figure or minor writer, makar or rapper.

Although the SPL is about much more than Scottish poetry, we decided that we really should be the first port of call for information on the poets of our nation, and two years ago embarked upon an ambitious project to create an online resource – an introduction to the work of a whole range of Scottish poets. So this part of the website serves as a sort of directory for living poets, and for dead poets we hope to encourage readers to explore further by providing for each a biographical and critical account, with a photograph,  bibliographies, and of course a few poems.

Most of the entries have been created ‘in-house’, but quite a few were contributed by academics, editors or other experts. And some, as I’m sure you will notice, have not yet been done. We know there are gaps, but please bear with us – as I said before, it is an ambitious project, and writing articles that do their subjects justice is a time-consuming process, as is the bibliographical research, and seeking permission to reproduce the poems. But for those of us whose enthusiasms lie with the dead poets (me!) it is a labour of love, affording fascinating glimpses into obscured lives, and the chance to usher forgotten poetry into the light again. Not to mention the opportunity to put right widely dispersed mistakes in poem texts, wrong attributions and other fallacies on the internet which offend those of us who like our information to be correct (me again).

In order to help browsers make more sense of the 400-plus entries, we have recently installed an option to refine searches, so that results can now be limited by century, gender or language, or all three combined. If you want to know which female poets wrote in Scots from the 1950s on, or want a list of 19th century Gaelic-language poets, tick the boxes!

Images not only enliven the entries, but are randomly selected for the front page of the ‘Poetry’ section of the website (when you click on the label ‘Poetry’ in the grey bar across the top of the home page), so are a necessary feature of the biographies which we try to install where possible.

From the late 1960s to the end of the 20th century, the photographer and publisher Gordon Wright took photographs of people on the Scottish literary scene, creating a unique archive. We are pleased to be using twenty-five of these portraits; they are mainly in black and white, which seems to fit the period and helps create a distinct time zone for the 20th century.

Please explore the Scottish Poets, find people you never knew existed and remarkable poetry that deserves a new reading.

And don’t mind the gaps!

Lizzie MacGregor