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 - May 2022
The Stirling Makar, Laura Fyfe, has chosen the poem ‘At Sherrifmuir’ to feature as the Poem of the Month for May 2022.
Chris Powici is a poet and occasional essayist. His latest poetry collection is Look, Breathe (Red Squirrel Press). He lives in Stirlingshire and teaches creative writing for The University of Stirling and The Open University.
Poem of the Month for May
all day this thick summer rain
no sun to speak of
only the moor dimmed down
to a brown, heathery blur
a ewe trots through the heavy grass
and stands at the edge of a peat hag
so drenched, so calm
she could be breathing rain
at any moment she could become rain
her fleece is turning into water
her eyes are wet and black and deep
the roadside bracken shivers
under its hood of glints
and the blue harebell petals bend
and give, a little,
as if they know there’s more to come
there’s always more to come
the same rain seeps into the dark tangle of your hair
makes its slow way down the skin at the back of your neck
cool and silent, but telling you something
about here and now and how close the world is ̶
grass, bracken, a few small damp flowers
all it takes to start seeing thing again
News and Events
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.
How to Find a Poem
As part of Stirling Libraries small print Children’s Book Festival in March, we invited local schools and Stirling Makar Laura Fyfe to join us for an interactive workshop via MS Teams.
We spent some time thinking about our favourite things, the things that we loved or hated, things that made us feel happy or sad, and we gathered some of these words into some lines of poetry.
Thanks to everyone who came along and contributed.
Just look at what we came up with!!
- a poem -
In the sea,
frogs dance in the rain.
I listen to the wind,
I listen closer to the breeze.
The void of time,
the creator of consciousness.
Family is like the sun.
Tigers prowling around the edge of my cup,
growing cold with leftover tea
Nature is calm
but funfairs are loud.
The rain, lashing down the window.
Macaroni cheese, yes please!
The night may be dark
but the light always returns.
I Like rainbows, but not the rain.
Birds cheeping in a tree.
If you listen close enough
you can hear the stars chatting.
I have a dog, he's a funny little pet,
he hides in my washing,
when I mention the word vet!
Stars alone in the depths of space.
Night is dark but space is darker.
When paddle boarding,
the greenery surrounds me.
My heart is beating faster than a train.
Water is hot but the air is cold.
Cat on the table in the sun.
When having toast,
you must have jam.
One sweetie day,
ice cream and dog walk.
Bulls are calm,
cows are mental.
In the day birds tweet
at night bats swoop down.
Dancing mouse up a tree.
The sun is hot but the air is cold.
The calm revitalizing serenity
of the rainforest is soothing amenity.
Cold ice cream in the sun.
The thing I like most is light, not dark.
Owl sitting in a box near Niagra Falls.
The rainbows are colourful in the day.
The lion is big,
the mouse is small.
The water as cold as ice.
Cold ice cream
on the coldest night.
In day loud as a lion,
in night, quiet as a mouse.
When the door closes,
the window opens.
Cold is icy,
hot is sunny.
by grey mud.
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
One Year Anniversary
It's been a year now since I was announced as Stirling Makar! And here's my first official Stirling Makar poem. I wrote it last year from the depths of lockdown, when the last thing many of us felt we were doing was living our lives. Certainly not as we'd hoped to, a year into the pandemic.
Now that I've performed it to the Provost Panel, here it is officially for you all.
I hope you're all feeling more lively and hopeful this Springtime.
We stand upon this earthen
mound, volcanic rock
its heat long cooled.
Before us Ochils roll along their line
behind us graveyard stones in strata
and the Forth curls shining into distance.
Castle closed, city hushed.
Underneath our fingertips
this wall crumbles.
Take a step out of time.
Feel layers of history swell below our feet.
Watch the rain fall, catch drops
on our tongues and taste the sky.
Feel stories wash away down cobbled streets.
Stand tall on the hill with heroes and fools
against the pull of gravity.
Open and stretch to the furthest
reaches of that horizon
and return with nothing
but the memory of notes playing
the breath of a crowd
vibrating like the skin of a drum
Feel what thrums beneath
the silence between.
It tells us we are alive.
It tells us
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, May 26, 2022 11:35 AM