Award-winning poet set to be Edinburgh's new Makar

AWARD-WINNING writer Alan Spence is set to become the Capital's next poet laureate.
Alan Spence pictured at the Sri Chinmony centre Canongate.    Pic Ian RutherfordAlan Spence pictured at the Sri Chinmony centre Canongate.    Pic Ian Rutherford
Alan Spence pictured at the Sri Chinmony centre Canongate. Pic Ian Rutherford

If councillors approve his nomination next week, he will take over the honorary role of Edinburgh Makar from Christine De Luca later this year.

A highly respected poet, playwright, novelist and short story writer, Mr Spence was born in Glasgow but lives in the Capital.

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He and his wife run the Sri Chinmoy Meditation Centre in the city.

He said: “I’m delighted and honoured to be nominated as the fifth Edinburgh Makar, the Poet Laureate for this wonderful city that has been my home for over 40 years.

“I look forward to following in the footsteps of my illustrious predecessors, Stewart Conn, Valerie Gillies, Ron Butlin and Christine De Luca.

“I know them all and they’re fine poets who have done a great job. We live in troubled times and poetry has never been so important.”

Mr Spence’s writing spans many genres and themes. His most recent novel is Night Boat, published by Canongate, which is based on the life of Zen master Hakuin.

For almost 20 years he taught creative writing at Aberdeen University, where he founded the successful WORD Festival, and where he is now emeritus professor.

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Councillor Donald Wilson, convener of the council’s culture and communities committee, said: “Alan Spence is an accomplished and highly-regarded writer whose work often features a hint of Scottish wit and shines with beautiful observations and revelations.

“He is the fifth addition to an illustrious group of writers who have filled this important role in Edinburgh – the original City of Literature.

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“Each writer has enthralled and benefited the city with their talent and Alan is an excellent choice.

“He will fill the shoes of the brilliant Christine De Luca, whose poetry has been prolific over the last three years.

“It has been an absolute joy to experience her perspective of Edinburgh and its people and I would like to thank her for the energy and insight that she has brought to the role.”

The post of Edinburgh Makar was established in 2002 by the city council.

The writer to receive the honour is nominated by representatives of the Scottish Poetry Library, Scottish PEN, The Saltire Society, Edinburgh City of Literature Trust and the council.

If his appointment is approved, Mr Spence would be made Makar at a special reception hosted by the Lord Provost at the City Chambers before the end of the year.

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Christine De Luca said: “I am delighted that Alan Spence is to be our next Makar. Besides being a wonderful writer, he is out-going and generous-hearted. I’m sure he’ll take the role in fascinating new directions.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as the Edinburgh Makar and found nothing but support from the council and its staff and from the other organisations supporting the role. Local poets too have been hugely encouraging and have willingly taken part in a range of projects.”

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