After hearing Robert Crawford’s compelling evocation of ‘the poet as bearer of cultural tradition’ at the otherwise often dire Edinburgh Book Festival (bland, corporate, rigid, expensive) and his reading of Clan Donald’s Call to Battle at Harlaw, attention has turned to the role of who can replace the irreplaceable Edwin Morgan. Whilst some think the title of ‘Makar’ is naff and couthie, and others think that this is just Cultural Cringe 2.0, some, including Crawford, think that the post itself is made redundant by the existence of our actual exisiting national poet (a clue, he’s deid and from Ayrshire)
When pressed from the audience Crawford stated he wouldn’t name names then offered the following shortlist: Tom Leonard, Kathleen Jamie, Liz Lochead, Don Patterson.
Others have mentioned Jackie Kay, Douglas Dunn , and indeed Robert Crawford. To which Bella would add Eck Finlay, Aonghas MacNeacail and Roddy Lumsden.
It’s a good opportunity to define the role. It should be someone who can read as well as write. Poetry is a live event. The Makar should be given a budget and a free reign, should be forced to travel the world for a bit, should be allowed a generous entertainment remit and perhaps should have a four or five year ‘term’ so its not seen as a reward for our most elderly poet.
Kathleen Jamie is strong on concept and big picture (‘an upturned boat is a watershed’), Alec Finlay is a master collaborator and innovator and Tom Leonard would be brilliant – but whoever it is they should heed Crawfords advice: “Be dashing, be diligent, Be eager, be elegant, Be foxy, be ferrety, Be fervid, be furious…”