Scotland signed its Declaration of Independence on April 6th, 1320, which would later be the inspiration behind America’s own Declaration of Independence. National Tartan Day as a holiday was passed in 1998 and has since become a day for all of America and those of Scottish descent to celebrate with parades, music (often bagpipes), and eating Scottish foods.
Besides all of these great traditions that have become a part of National Tartan Day, another way you can celebrate this holiday (and National Poetry Month at the same time) is by reading the work of some of these Scottish poets! So sit back and enjoy the works of these influential Scottish poets.
The best-laid schemes of mice and men / Go oft awryRobert Burns, “To a Mouse”
To start off the list is the widely regarded national poet of Scotland Robert Burns. One of the most famous poets not only in Scotland but the world as a whole, Burns has become an iconic figure in both poetry and politics, being a very influential part of the Romantic movement at its beginnings. Some of his most well-known work includes the poem and song “Auld Lang Syne” and the poem “To a Mouse’ from which the iconic line “best-laid plans of mice and men” derives from.
His work has been incredibly significant in American culture inspiring books such as Of Mice and Men and musicians including Bob Dylan. His works have been collected into a variety of volumes including this one!
Carol Ann Duffy
I like to use simple words, but in a complicated way.Carol Ann Duffy
Carol Ann Duffy is an award-winning poet with multiple collections of poetry for both children and adults published. Her list of awards includes but is not limited to the Signal Prize for Children’s Verse, the Whitbread Poetry Award, the T. S. Eliot Prize, and the Scottish Arts Council Award. She was appointed Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom in 2009 and has become recognized as being the first Scottish poet, woman, and openly LGBTQ person to be appointed to this position. While she has written numerous poetry collections, a number of her best-known works can be found in her Collected Poems.
They call this progress, when it’s really only greed.Robin Robertson
Both a writer and an editor, Robin Robertson writes poetry based in myth, folklore, and legend to create story-like lyrical poems that draw the reader in. He blends both Celtic and global mythology into his work, which has received several awards for his poetry including being the first poet to be published on the Picador Poetry list. His latest narrative collection Grimoire is well in line with his dark and mystical style of writing, and with illustrations from his brother Tim Robertson tells stories of people affected by supernatural forces, both pleasant and ill-tempered. A grimoire is a manual for invoking spirits, and in this collection, Robertson will likely evoke a reaction from the reader as well.
You are placed in landscape, you are placed in time. But, within that, there’s a bit of room for manoeuvre. To some extent, you can be author of your own fate.Kathleen Jamie, Sightlines: A Conversation with the Natural World
Kathleen Jamie is a poet and essayist who writes in both English and the Scots dialect, writing poems that focus on the culture and landscapes of Scotland. She has won the Forward Poetry Prize and most recently the Ness Award for “outstanding creative writing at the confluence of travel, nature, and culture”. She’s also the current Makar (national poet laureate) for Scotland as of August 2021 and is the Chair of Creative Writing at Stirling University. Her recent essay Surfacing is about a Yup’ik village in Alaska and her own connections to her life and history, and some of her poems have been bound in a collected edition.
Weather here in this part of the world is just as moody, just as subjective and disloyal, as people.Jackie Kay, Trumpet
Jackie Kay has written a multitude of poetry since her first collection, The Adoption Papers, was released in 1991, which received the Scottish Arts Council Book Award, and the Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award. The collection follows the perspectives of a birth mother, adopted mother, and daughter and explores an adopted child’s search for a cultural identity, reflecting on her own experience. Among her other awards, she was previously the Scottish Maker from 2016 to 2021.
You can find even more poetry to get you into the spirit of Poetry Month here!