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, dedicated to the people of Doune and Deanston, appears to be about 3 things : play time in the park, a football match ( involving of course Doune Thistle) and the nearby churchyard of Kilmadock. All of these sit side by side and all are connected by the theme of Rising Again, or, to use the traditional word – Resurrection!
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 whn 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 to – 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 round 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 for ever 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 the 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!
Workshops with Stirling's Makar
Stirling's Makar, Clive Wright will be available on a regular basis to meet local people with an interest in reading and writing poetry.
No appointment is needed and visitors are welcome if they wish to bring some work or come and chat and get to know Stirling's new Makar. Find out more here.