Burns’ Backlash/Expo 2020 Poetry Collection – Poetry News Roundup January 31st

We begin the week with a look at the backlash to a commemorative look at the life of Robert Burns with a less than favourable opinion, and the launch of a poetry collection at Expo 2020 in Dubai.

“Trashing” of Poetry Legacy Receives Backlash


An argument has broken out following the commemoration by the Scottish Poetry Library of the work of the national bard, Robert Burns. The commemoration looked at whether people should, in fact, be celebrating the poet who is known all over the world, as probably the most important Scottish poet.

The centre, which is in Edinburgh, hosted a group of female poets and looked at “creative responses by women to the life and work of Robert Burns”. A number of the poets were less than kind about Burns. In fact one claimed that Burns should be seen to have been a misogynist and couldn’t understand why he was so celebrated. Another point that was raised was that in a number of his poems and songs he describes women as too prudish, too proud, or too promiscuous; attitudes that are unfortunately still around today. There were a number of aspects of both the poet and his work that the entire group said they felt uncomfortable celebrating.

The responses that they gave were filmed in the library and then posted on YouTube. The videos quickly drew criticism.

The library has hit back, saying that they had asked the group to write new poetry reflecting on Burns. They had not given a particular brief, however the initial discussions that they did have were a reflection on why the bard was still celebrated to such an extent today and how the group felt about the legacy that he had left.

The library and the group of women poets stand by the work that was produced as a result of the discussions, and believe it may be time for the world to remove their tartan blinkers in order to take a long and honest look at the poet who was “a bit of a cheeky chappy, who liked the ladies.” His work was representative of the times that he lived in but the views that he held are now rather outdated and less glory should be given to celebrating his life every year.

Scotland is the only country in the world where an annual commemoration is held for a poet (although Burns night is becoming an increasingly popular phenomenon all over the world).

Speaking up on behalf of the poet, a member of the Burns Club pointed out that Burns is not the first poet, or individual in the field of the arts, to be judged. Oscar Wilde was judged for his sexuality, Caravaggio as a murderer and Wagner for, amongst other things, his mostly antisemitic views.

Expo 2020 Dubai – World Poetry Tree Anthology Launched

A collection of poems from 405 leading poets based all over the world, hailing from 106 counties, was launched as part of a global poetry anthology with the message of love, hope and peace as part of the Expo 2020 in Dubai.

The work is the idea of Adel Khozam, a celebrated Emirati poet. He and his family worked to coordinate the poems, edit them, and also design the book. Some of the contributors to the work are Nobel Prize nominees.

It is hoped that if the collection is successful a further edition will be released at the 2025 Expo in Japan.

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