The lockdown has, necessarily, shrunk our worlds for the time being. Confined as we are to our homes, nevertheless the Scottish Poetry Library is committed to an expansive view of Scottish poetry. We are aware of the importance of searching for poetry written outside the central belt and giving it a platform. With reference to the title of Douglas Gifford and Alan Riach’s 2004 anthology, there is not simply one but many Scotlands, and we are aware of our role in reflecting our country’s rich diversity.
With that in mind, the SPL is piloting a guest curatorship programme to help extend our national reach. If this proves successful, we will open this out to expressions of interest in the future. We have engaged four curators or ‘Champions’, each of whom will commission five new pieces for our digital collection; so that’s 20 new pieces of work by the end of the project. These commissions will explore ideas of ‘vision’, which is the theme of National Poetry Day this year. While there are no criteria for the selections that the curators choose, these curators are aware of our equalities principles. In support of these principles we have included curators working mainly in Scots language and Scottish Gaelic and, looking ahead, we will include work accessible to the BSL community.
The Champions are:
- Aoife Lyall
- Hugh McMillan
- Thomas Clark (who has been tasked with commissioning new work in Scots)
- Ceitidh Campbell (who is commissioning new work in Gaelic)
Aoife Lyall says, ‘In my role as curator I am committed to promoting the message that talent is to be found and celebrated throughout the North of Scotland. I am excited to commission works by poets whose work I have long admired, and those I have yet to discover, and to give a flavour of our Scotland through the voices of five distinct poets.’
‘Scots poetry is in a crackin place the noo,’ Thomas Clark says, ‘an mony o oor kintrae’s maist kenspeckle makars are fowk that are wirkin in an aroond the Scots leid. Sae ah’m gey joco aboot this opportunity tae mak vieve the pouer an smeddum o oor ither national language in aw its local variants an byleids, frae the bonnie Borders tae the Northern Isles.’
Hugh McMillan says, ‘I’m hoping to promote both neglected and emerging writers from the south of Scotland and do two things really: showcase to the rest of the country the talent that exists south of the central belt; and give confidence to practitioners in the so-called peripheries of Scotland that they are themselves a crucial and vibrant part of literary Scotland.’
Ceitidh Campbell says, ‘I’m very excited to be part of this scheme and hope that it will help showcase the depth and diversity of Gaelic poetry across the generations. I’m planning to approach a mixture of established and emerging poets from both native and learner backgrounds all of whom are committed to broadening the appeal and interest of Gaelic across the arts.’
We’ll be sharing the fruits of the project via the website in the coming months.