70 Poet Challenge/Plaza Named After Poet – Poetry News Roundup 30th October 2023

We begin the week with a look at the 70-Poet Challenge and the plaza named in honour of the former Scottish Makar.

National Poetry Library’s 70-Poet Challenge

The National Poetry Library is looking to mark its 70th birthday in a very special way, which they hope will help to shift the poetry reading habits of the nation. They are inviting the public to help them discover 70 new poets who have written or performed poetry within the last 70 years.

Over the course of the last 70 years, the National Poetry Library has been bringing poems to life and connecting readers to their favourite works of poetry. Now they are asking the public, and Lemn Sissay, to help to shape the poetic tastes of the nation. They want people to help them discover poets who have been publishing their work since 1953. They poems can be written in any language and the poets from any country they must just be new to the individual. The most popular of the voted-for poets will them be invited the Southbank Centre to perform in October 2024.

There will be a free booklet to download on the library website and every month they will be offering prompts to help people look for their new poets. There will also be the opportunity for the public to write their own 70 word poems and submit them. The winning poem will be read out at the October event.

Lemn Sissay has joined in the quest to help with the 70-poet challenge because new readers and new writers are the lifeblood of poetry. He believes that too many people believe that all of the good poetry was only written by those who are long dead and that everything that has followed is just a poor imitation.

Jackie Kay Opens University Plaza Named in her Honour

The former Scottish Makar (the equivalent of the poet laureate) Jackie Kay has officially opened the Jackie Kay Plaza at the University of Strathclyde. The plaza, which has been named in her honour, will be part of the Learning & Teaching Building on the Glasgow city centre campus. Sitting between the Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell Wing and the Mary Dunn Wing, which are both part of the recent refurbishment project the university has undertaken. The names for all three of the buildings were put to the community within the university and there was a ballot in 2021 to decide on the winners.

Jackie Kay is currently a professor of creative writing based at the University of Salford. From March 2016 to 2021, she was the Scottish Makar. Since the publication of her first poetry collection in 1991, she has published a wide and varied range of works all of which explore the themes of gender, race, nationality and sexuality.

In the 2020 New Year’s Honours list she was made a Commander of the British Empire.

Speaking about the event, the Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the university said that the decision to name the plaza after Kay showed how important she was not only to Scotland but also to the community of Strathclyde as both a wordsmith and inspirational figure.

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