Scotland’s national poet Liz Lochhead has followed in the footsteps of Philip Larkin, Ted Hughes, Sorley MacLean and Siegfried Sassoon by being chosen for a royal honour.
The Lanarkshire-born poet, who is coming to the end of her tenure as the Scots Makar has been awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry. Ms Lochhead will receive the honour from the Queen next year.
The Glasgow School of Art graduate, originally from Newarthill, near Motherwell, had her first poetry collection published in 1972. She had lectured in fine arts for eight years before becoming a professional writer and is now also a renowned playwright.
Ms Lochhead told The Scotsman: “When you look at the list of who has been awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal before it is pretty daunting. It is a bit of an honour to say the least.
“Various friends of mine have had this award in the past, like Don Paterson, Gillian Clarke, James Fenton, Douglas Dunn and Edwin Morgan, so it’s a huge honour. It’s all a bit overwhelming really, but in quite a pleasant way. When I heard about it I had actually been completely stuck on a poem I’ve been trying to write for a couple of weeks.”
Ms Lochhead, a former Glasgow poet laureate, was appointed Makar in 2011 for a five-year tenure. Her successor has yet to be announced.
She added: “It’s been just absolutely fantastic to be the Makar over the last five years. I try to do as many things as I can for good causes and also anything to do with making poetry more visible in schools.
“I’m certainly not retiring or winding down. I’m writing a poem about Elsie Inglis [doctor and suffragist] for a new exhibition of work by John Bellany at the Scottish Parliament. I’m just finishing editing my next collection of poems, which will be out in the spring, and I’ve also got a deadline at the end of December for a new play for the Royal Lyceum.
“I’ve also made a CD of poetry with the son and daughter of Michael Marra and their band, The Hazey Janes, and have been touring with the saxophonist Steve Kettley.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to spend more time on the west coast getting some work done. There’s not really been a week without two or three engagements in the last few years.”
The honour was announced by Britain’s poet laureate, Glasgow-born Carol Ann Duffy, who chaired the committee of experts which selected the latest recipient. The Gold Medal for Poetry was instigated in 1933 by King George V at the suggestion of then Poet Laureate John Masefield.
Ms Duffy said: “Since the early 1970s she has influenced an entire generation of other writers, bringing a new kind of poetry performance to the stage, as well as a different set of rhythms to the page. From the start, she spoke in her own feisty, female voice, mixing old Scots with new Scots – as aware of Burns as of Morgan – and she did this with a galvanising spirit and vitality that helped to change the landscape of British poetry.”