Stirling Makar Laura Fyfe
Stirling: Alive with Words
It’s with a sense of great pride and gratitude that I take on the honour and responsibility of the Stirling Makar. I wish to express my thanks to the team at Stirling’s Library Services, and look forward to working with them. With the appointment of Makar, Stirling Council demonstrates the recognition it gives to culture – which lies at the heart of every society.
I’m grateful to be a part of a wonderful writing community here in Scotland, and huge thanks to friends who’ve already been the source of great encouragement. Thanks also to my colleagues in Falkirk High School for their ongoing support and I look forward to working with them to explore how poetry might enrich the excellent work that already goes on there to support the learning of young people.
Stirling is my home. This is central to my passion for doing as good a job as possible in the role of Makar. I’m a proud Daughter of the Rock. Stirling’s paths are the paths I walk, the roads I drive, the mountains I climb. What happens in Stirling matters more to me than what happens anywhere else. It’s where my energies are rooted and is where my energies as a writer and tutor have always returned. The Makarship now lends me a greater platform with which to support and amplify the work of Stirling’s writers. I intend to bring the poetry world to Stirling, and with my connections across Scotland, such as my roles on the boards of the Scottish Writers’ Centre and Scottish Poetry Library, I intend to bring Stirling’s poetry to the wider world.
“Makar” is the Scots word that refers to a literary writer, in particular a poet. We have a strong legacy of Makars in Scotland – and here in Stirling. I’m honoured to join their ranks. I look forward to building on the foundations they’ve laid in order to lead Stirling’s poetry into the future.
Five years ago today, Jackie Kay’s appointment as Makar was announced at the Scottish Poetry Library. At the event, Nicola Sturgeon said “Poetry is part of Scotland’s culture and history…The role of the Makar is to celebrate our poetic past, promote the poetry of today and produce new pieces of work that relate to significant events...”
In her statement, Jackie Kay said that poetry holds up a “mirror to a nation’s heart, mind and soul.” Far be it from me to argue with Jackie. Instead, I’ll add my own symbol to the discussion of what poetry can be...
A bridge. Between people, places and ideas. Between past, present and future. The Makar is a position that represents poetry in the public eye and as Makar, I too hope to act as a bridge.
A bridge’s raison d’etre is to provide a pathway. I aim to advance the role of poetry in the lives of the people of Stirling and signpost aspiring writers towards ways that they can embark on their own poetic journeys. Having spent ten years supporting writers in Stirling and across Scotland, both on a voluntary and professional basis, I’ve met with and collaborated with many fantastic creative organisations. I look forward to strengthening these connections in order to provide more opportunities to nourish Stirling’s poetry scene. I aim to use the Stirling Makar role as a springboard with which to further the work I’ve loved so much over the last decade.
Bridges of course encourage movement and connection. I hope to act as a spark of energy with which to ignite Stirling’s cultural vitality. I’ll guide Stirling’s poets towards opportunities, provide events with which to showcase their work, and shine a light on achievements around Stirling that they may find inspiration from. As well as celebrating the work of some well-known poets connected to Stirling, my foremost ambition is to encourage the emergence of new voices.
A ‘Makar’ is an ambassador for poetry. The word ‘ambassador’ has its origins in the Latin: Ambaxus-Ambactus which means servant or minister. Stirling, where poetry is concerned, I’m here to serve. Tell me what you’d love more of in our poetry scene and I’ll endeavour to work with you to provide it. Bear in mind that to effect real, lasting, positive change, the more of us the better. So I invite you to become actively involved! I’ll reach out soon to open up a dialogue about the past, present and future of poetry in Stirling. In the meantime, I’m listening. My in-boxes are already filling with great news and suggestions, as well as messages from organisations who’d like to collaborate. The next three years are going to be exciting! Join me on the adventure.
Poem of the Month - November
This is poetry
This is poetry
give me some time
let the words flow, glow
like raindrops from the sky
let your ears rest here on this sigh
let the silence lie
and then explode
into an infusion
a multi-coloured world view
of verbs and sounds
where consonants run riot
with passionate debate.
This where the truth lies
deep inside a heartbeat
but it’s easy to forget
we’ve been jammin
on the streets for millennia.
On the corners of Shakespeare’s time
they used to rap and rhyme
throw words like pots
make meanings collide
because these words are free
poetry’s like the air we breathe
it’s our inheritance
the blood that runs in our veins
our lost mother tongue
which was never written down
but bloomed into a thousand nations.
The Greeks made it theatre
and the Beats went on the road
it’s a debt owed
to the bards of long ago
but still we wrap it up
in terms of good and bad
take it from our lips
tie it down flat,
mystified into codes of genius.
call it what you like
this my right to speak
and I’m fighting back
from that straight and narrow.
This is a revolution of the heart
where everyone has a chance,
I’m with Burns and McGonagall
I’m a poet rebel dancing up a storm,
I’ve slept and dreamed on
the streets of Alphabet City
where The Last Poets roamed
and in the words of Heron
this revolution will not be televised
Cos it’s a vital spark deep inside,
from Rumi to 2Pac,
these are seeds of thoughts
growing into wild gardens,
a confab, a diversity of voices
that slips from tongue teeth and lips
let rip after ripened.
This the light that keeps it real
the babble of the brook
and the rhythm of the oceans
this is poetry
the intonation of beat and silence
in an ever changing world
of what can never be said
and never be told
And I can’t tell no lies
just like Blake or Byron
there’s revolution on my mind
as I sleep with Pablo’s dreams
sweet beneath my pillow.
This is poetry
as I dance in free verse
a Pictish fire spirit in love
give me some time
let the words flow, glow
like raindrops from the sky
let your ears rest here
on this sigh
let the silence lie
… and then explode.
Anita Govan was born in Stirling. Much of her work focuses on performance poetry and she was the co-founder of the Scottish Youth Poetry Slam. Her first collection, Jane, was published by Luath Press in 2005. She was the Stirling Makar for 2012-2015.
Poem of the Month Submissions
Hello Stirling poets!
I’m now open to submissions of poems on any topic with a connection to Stirling. Those who've lived, worked or studied in Stirling, or have written a poem about Stirling, I'd love to hear from you!
Successful poems will be published on the Stirling Council platforms and promoted on social media, with a fee of £20 awarded to the poet.
- One poem only per person
- Poems invited on any topic
- Up to 40 lines.
- Previously published accepted.
- Copyright remains with the poet
- Poems to be used at the discretion of Stirling Council.
- Please include a title sheet on the first page with your name, word or line count, title(s), a 50-word bio and your preferred contact details.
- We regret that we cannot provide feedback.
- Emails should be titled ‘Stirling Makar Poem of the Month + YOUR NAME’
- Please send all submissions to: Makar@Stirling.gov.uk.
News and Events
National Poetry Day
Eco-Poem Competition: Shortlist
I asked and you answered. Poets from across the UK and the US sent in some truly wonderful poems. This has been the most difficult judging process it's ever been my pleasure to lead. Thanks to all who shared their love of nature. While some opened my eyes to aspects of nature I'd never before considered, so many of them chimed with my own cherished memories. It's been such a special, joyful experience.
Here are the shortlisted poets and poems. All will be published in the book of poetry that will mark the end of my Makarship. A wee while to wait, admittedly, but I hope it will be worth it.
And congratulations to the two winners! Kate Young and Frances Ainslie - these were announced on social media the evening on National Poetry Day (https://www.facebook.com/stirlingmakar/, Twitter: @StirlingLibs and @FigmentLaura)
They'll receive a tiny goodie-package of Tiny Things to use as poetic inspiration.
By the Orchy they convene under bracken,
roost on birch boles, sing under scarlet
the melodies of gills’ breath. Untouchables.
- Leonie Charlton
A brown conker, shiny and hard.
There's new life beneath the skin.
The future in a child's hand.
- Ann MacKinnon
Roadsides fade away
silken rosebay and thistle
lift, and chase the wind
- Frances Ainslie
the paper wing tumble-twists
in wind-spin, spirals,
disappears in autumn’s lap
- Kate Young
dandelions await the bees
tiny suns worshipping their mother
I pick a seedhead and close my eyes
blow time away
make a wish
- George Colkitto
a canyon wren sings
with a meandering stream
I sense hearts
of small hidden creatures
beating faster as I pass
- Jo Balistreri
Haunch-deep in the long grass
an Alsatian yearling
hunts for her just lost ball
- James Ripley
Abody spiks o the virr o the butterflee
but Ah think that mochs are unnerratit
Thay've been aroon langer
wi thair wee douce oosie bouks an keen wee
Like tottie furry ootlings
- Keeks Mc
Yesterday, I sat at a table in the sunshine, outside a coffee shop, with poet friends. And I was struck by something.
Three months ago I was announced as Stirling’s new Makar.
With the great support of various teams at Stirling Council and Stirling Libraries, I’ve set up a poetry group, received open submissions for Poem of the Month (more on those soon), welcomed others’ points of view in a survey – and I’ve written my first Makar poem (more on that soon too)!
I’ve worked with schoolchildren, met with various representatives of Stirling’s creative organisations, and been a point of contact for those who need advice about navigating the Scottish writing community. And let me tell you: there are plans afoot!
Most of these plans were set in motion because of a very simple thing.
Sat at that table in the sunshine, people walked by that my friends and I knew. And between us, three exciting projects (maybe more) arose.
Because of human connection. This last year’s been particularly tough because of that lack, but we’ve managed, and now that things are opening up again, and hopefully will continue to do so, things are moving again! Seeing people face-to-face (or mask-to-mask) again, I’ve realised just how much can happen as a result of chance-meetings and impromptu discussions.
The Makar title is just that, a title. It has probably served well as a lightening rod, but behind it there’s a writer and writing tutor who’s spent ten years forging and strengthening connections around Stirling. Perhaps some things are happening more quickly now, but more often than not, that’s because professional and personal relationships were already in place.
When I gave my presentation to the Civic Panel a few months back, I spoke of the potential for poetry to be a bridge between the past and present, between ideas and between people. And it’s the connection that poetry can provide that imbues it with such power.
Meeting. Talking. Collaboration. That’s where the fun is.
There’s more to come. A lot more, and there’ll be all the more because of the people who’ve already come forward to get involved. You know who you are. Thank you!
Stirling’s poetry (Past and Present)
My Collection of Stirling poems, Faces of the Rock, is now complete and is available to buy at Waterstones, The Smith Museum and Stirling Libraries. ( £5.00)
My term as Makar of Stirling is now also complete, the three year term having passed by with some swiftness! It has truly been an honour and a delight to hold this position for Stirling. It has been a great occasion for meeting those around the City, not just the poets themselves, dedicated to their art and gifted, but also, equally important, the public who attend events and readings and who understand fully how to appreciate and enjoy the passing pleasures of the Muse.
For poetry is all about pleasure, quality and pleasure. For me, the pleasure has been double: That of writing the poems themselves and of sharing them with my Stirling friends. As an envoi, here are two, very different, poems, from Faces of the Rock. Adieu!
Clive Wright's background
It is a great honour indeed to have the post of the Stirling Makar of this remarkable City. As the home of the original Makars at the court of James IV, Stirling is a pre-eminent site for poetry. It is not merely a matter of its fascinating role in the history of the country, or indeed the remarkable beauty of its Castle and its landscape, it is, I believe, very much to do with its people. A friend of mine moved here around the time that I did, having come from one of Scotland’s larger conurbations. He commented that he found the folk here “different” and I asked him how. His reply was: "More spirit'!
I have been writing poetry since the age of 16 (1970!) I am a past prize winner at the Irish Writers Week festival in Kerry and my work has been published in anthologies and journals in England as well as here in Scotland, especially here in my adopted home in Stirling, where I have lived since 1984.
Poetry, my own poetry included, does indeed celebrate place, evoking as it does so often the Spirit of the Place, the Genius Loci. In my case the key places have been my erstwhile home in Ireland, then Cambridge, where I studied, and now above all Stirling itself.
As I work on my collection about the City, Faces of the Rock, and publish them initially here on this website, I hope that that above all the human faces of our community will shine through.
I believe deeply that poetry, as it portrays and celebrates the many experiences and emotions of daily life, can truly enhance our own appreciation of ourselves and of others in our community. Whether we write it or read it, or both, poetry helps us, in a world of so many pressures and demands, to pause and look a little deeper at the better and more beautiful things which we know instinctively make our lives so meaningful and so worthwhile.
Stirling Makar's Collection
This poem Black Knight is in memory of James IV of Scotland, the 545th anniversary of whose birth falls on 17th March. Regarded by some as Scotland’s greatest king, James was clearly a leader of great confidence and boldness. Famous for his building of the Castle’s Great Hall, he loved to live life to the full, jousts and all. We with the benefit of historical hindsight know that his final fling, a bold invasion of England, would end with his death, however, even that should not perhaps dim our image of his eager, vigorous, energetic life. The poem is named after the title James took for himself when jousting for the hand of the mysterious “Black Lady”.
There’s something about a game of golf… the capacity generally for anything from disappointment to outright disaster too – sometimes, just sometimes - the moment of bliss when that wee white ball does what it’s supposed to: soars on to the green bit, leaving you to roll it nonchalantly into the hole. Despite the really remarkable rareness of the latter experience for me I continue to enjoy my rounds immensely and my usual venue is Brucefields Golf Centre. The site near Bannockburn ( and of course the name itself) evokes memories of a great battle, while this poem, as you will see, tells of that other great battle, namely getting around the course with a half decent score! It is dedicated to the Souters and to all who play their Course.
Stirling has a rich and distinguished tradition in the realm of education and one of my first thoughts on becoming Makar was to write a poem in celebration of the High School of Stirling. The tradition of learning in our City has been carried forward in a number of school buildings, however, it was the old High School ( now the Stirling Highland Hotel ) that I wanted to focus on especially. I was very fortunate in researching this to have the help of Ken Smith and his committee of FPs ( I won’t say Old Boys! ) who regaled me with many a fascinating anecdote about their days as young lads at the School. I was also lucky enough to be able to speak to Andy Miller, who was not a pupil but a master there: so I was able to see their school life from both sides of the teacher’s desk!
To them, and to all pupils of the High School of Stirling and of Stirling High, I dedicate this poem. May good scholarship and learning continue to thrive in Stirling for centuries to come. “Tempori parendum!”
Each year Stirling Art Club holds an excellent and inspiring exhibition in the Church Halls of Holy Trinity Church in Albert Place. Every year I look in, sometimes to buy, sometimes just to admire the work in all its variety. Last year I was so struck by the vivid and vital work of the exhibitors that I went home straight afterwards to put pen ( but not brush!) to paper. This poem was the result and I dedicate it warmly to all members of the Club.
Not every City holds the bones of Kings. However, Stirling’s beautiful Cambuskenneth Abbey is forever the final resting place of James III. Killed in the aftermath of the Battle of Sauchieburn on 11th June 1488, James’s body was brought to lie beside his queen Margaret. Their grave may be visited today in the beautiful grounds of the Abbey, with the waters of the Forth winding quietly by. Having lived in Cambuskenneth myself for 10 very happy years it is a particular pleasure for me to dedicate this piece to all the people of the village.
A poem to celebrate an evening in an Italian restaurant, and one of Stirling’s oldest and best-loved, Corrieri’s. Italy and Italians “do atmosphere” like no other people, loads of warmth, emozione, gusto, gioia, plenty not only to fill the stomach but also to gladden the heart. Grazie mille!
This little poem is my contribution to World Poetry Day. As you see it celebrates one of the great traditional world links for Britain and Scotland, our long-standing and intimate links with the Sub Continent, and specifically – and especially on a Friday or Saturday night – the Indian Restaurant. The former Foreign Secretary, the Scot Robin Cook, once famously observed that Britain’s national dish was undoubtedly Chicken Tikka Masala!
The setting is intimate. Part of the pleasure of eating out is being aware of those around you at different tables. On this occasion, however, at this table, something really special is happening…
This little poem in Latin was written in celebration of the Queen’s 90th birthday. I learned Latin at school and at Cambridge and spent a number of years teaching it here in Scotland. From time to time, and here for this special occasion, I use it in writing poetry. As you see the poem is an acrostic: the opening letters of the four verses ( highlighted) spell out ER XC , Elizabeth Regina 90.
The Rock is my first poem for Stirling in my position as Makar and it will be the lead poem in my collection of work about the City, the title of which is Faces of the Rock. What better point of focus could there be for a poet than this beautiful and remarkable Castle, the visible and in many ways the emotional centre of the lives of the people of Stirling?
Here is the latest piece for my Stirling collection Faces of the Rock. It seems topical since as I write this the snow is falling outside my home here in the village of Cambusbarron – although in fact this little sketch in words was actually written last year watching the folk up on the hill sledging away to their hearts’ content. It’s a great place to live or work or indeed play and slide down a hill! The poem is affectionately dedicated to all my fellow villagers.
This poem as you can see begins with Christmas and so is perhaps a good piece to share with everybody in December 2016. Despite the Latin title ( Ecce Homo – Behold the Man ), it is I think one of my simplest poems. As it happens it was the first piece of mine to be set to music and for the first time of many my good friend the composer Tom David Wilson composed the musical setting. The piece was first sung by the Rosenethe Singers in Dunblane, under the baton at that time of Matthew Beetschen and the Dunblane Cathedral Choir have also performed it. With it may I wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Last updated: Thursday, April 1, 2021 1:00 PM