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Burns Night: Scottish Poets

23 January 2020

To celebrate Burns night this Saturday we are highlighting the work of two contemporary Scottish poets Kathleen Jamie and John Burnside.

Kathleen Jamie herself resists labels such as ‘Scottish poet’ but nevertheless we welcome the opportunity to highlight her work for Burns Night. She has won several prizes since her first collection of poetry was published in 1982, including the Forward Prize for the best collection, the Forward Prize for best poem, and the Somerset Maugham Award. Born in the West of Scotland, and raised in Currie near Edinburgh, she often uses Scots speech in her work.

One of Jamie’s poems has been literally carved in stone: entitled Here lies our Land, it was commissioned for the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, and is inscribed on the renovated monument at the site of the battle.

Why not enjoy one of the poet’s collections, The Overhaul which won the 2012 Costa Poetry Award, which can be found under Catalogue Number 9685. It has been described as ‘the equivalent of taking a Scottish walk, observing birds, deer, sheep and the sea’.

Jamie is also a renowned essayist who writes largely on the natural world, as you will discover in Findings 11961, Sightlines 12089 and Surfacing (coming soon).

John Burnside is one of the few poets to win both the TS Eliot Prize and the Forward Prize for the same book, he has also won a host of other prizes. The collection, Black Cat Bone 9169, examine themes of ‘thwarted love and disappointment, and raw desire’.

Like Kathleen Jamie he is known for both his poetry and prose. In his autobiographical account of his early life, A Lie About my Father 10029, he describes his upbringing in a family dominated by a heavy-drinking and gambling man, prone to violence. His painful beginnings paved the way to alcohol and drug abuse in adulthood, and eventual mental breakdown.

In Something like Happy 10340 you will discover his talent for short story writing in this collection of tales he ‘takes us into the lives of men and women trapped in marriage, ensnared by drink, diminished by disappointment’.

Cranachan recipe for your Burns Supper

(Serves 4)

85g porridge oats
570ml double cream (or a mixture of cream and fromage frais)
100ml whisky
60ml runny honey
350g raspberries

  • Gently toast the oats in a dry pan to a light brown colour
  • Whip cream to soft peaks
  • Fold in whisky, honey and raspberries
  • Serve - and enjoy!