Following the footsteps of Robert Burns

We introduce you to three of our favourite contemporary LGBT Scottish poets

Following the footsteps of Robert Burns
25 January 2012

Get your haggis, neeps and tatties at the ready, it's Robert Burns Day!

People across Scotland (and the globe) will be donning their kilts in honour of the great Scottish bard, who famously wrote the likes of Auld Lang Syne, Tam o'Shanter, Ae Fond Kiss and My Love is Like a Red Red Rose.

Born 25 January 1759 in Alloway, South Ayrshire, Burns was never appreciated during his time, only becoming a truly celebrated poet and national treasure posthumously.

Now, on the anniversary of his birth, Burns Suppers are held in his honour. Traditionally, a haggis (sheeps heart, liver and lungs minced with onion, oatmeal and spices encased in an animal stomach) is presented to the guests before the host recites a few of Burns' most well known poems.

In memory of Burns, Gay Star News introduce you to three queer Scottish poets who could leave a legacy as great as 'oor Rabbie's'.

Edwin Morgan

The most notable of Scotland's queer poets is the late Edwin Morgan. Named as Scotland's first national poet, Morgan is best known for poems such as Strawberries and The Loch Ness Monster's Song.

In his lifetime, Morgan was made an OBE, won numerous international poetry prizes, Scottish Book of the Year and the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry.

Morgan came out as gay when he reached 70 years old, revealing his sexuality in his 1990 work Nothing Not Giving Messages: Reflections on his Work and Life. Throughout his early career he had kept his sexuality hidden as homosexuality was not decriminalised in Scotland until 1980.

Although this could have proven difficult, Morgan was able to draw inspiration from the situation: 'It was something I wanted to write about from quite early on.

'I was able to draw sustenance from it… It took a long time for me to risk being unguarded, it depended on changes in society, changes in the law, changes in the people I knew.'

Morgan died on 19 August, 2010, in Glasgow, aged 90.

Christopher Whyte

Contemporary gaelic poet Christopher Whyte has dealt more explicitly with homosexuality in both his poems and English language novels.

In Elegy for Alasdair Cameron, he challenges the refusal of Scottish society to accept gay people:

'I am oppressed by silence,/ for we were born in a land/ which does not want us'

While in his book The Gay Decameron, Whyte tells the tale of a group of gay men in the top floor of an Edinburgh New Town flat during the city's AIDS crisis of the 1980s.

Carol Ann Duffy

Glaswegian writer Carol Ann Duffy rose to prominence in the early 80s after winning the Poetry Society's National Poetry Competition with her poem Whoever She Was. Her first collection, Standing Female Nude, was published shortly after to critical acclaim.

Since then, Duffy has won the TS Elliot Prize, the Whitbread Poetry Award and in 2009 she became first female, Scottish and gay writer to hold the position of British Poet Laureate.

When asked about her sexuality, Duffy told the BBC: 'Sexuality is something that is celebrated now we have civil partnerships and it's fantastic that I'm an openly gay writer, and anyone here… who feels shy or uncomfortable about their sexuality should celebrate and be confident and be happy.

'It's a lovely, ordinary, normal thing.'

Duffy's first official poem as poet laureate tackled the issue of the British MP expenses scandal and in 2010 she premiered her poem Vigil during Manchester Pride, dedicating it to the memory of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who have lost their lives to HIV and AIDS.

Watch Carol Anne Duffy read Vigil at Manchester Pride below:
 

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