© Image by Caroline Forbes

Jackie Kay

(b. 1961)

"A poem is a little moment of belief." - Jackie Kay

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Recordings

These poems come from a special recording for the Poetry Archive:

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Extras

Select bibliography

  • A Dangerous Knowing: Four Black Women Poets, Sheba, 1984 - out of print
  • The Adoption Papers, Bloodaxe, 1991
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  • That Distance Apart, Turret, 1991 - out of print
  • Two's Company(poems for children), Puffin, 1992 - out of print
  • Other Lovers, Bloodaxe, 1993
    Buy
  • Three Has Gone (poems for children), Blackie Children's Books, 1994 - out of print
  • Hearsay: Performance Poets Plus, Audio cassette, 57 Production, 1994
  • Penguin Modern Poets 8 (contributor with Merle Collins and Grace Nichols), Penguin, 1996 - out of print
  • Off Colour, Bloodaxe, 1998
    Buy
  • Trumpet (fiction), Picador, 1998
  • Teeth, Audio cassette, 57 Production, 1998
  • Poetry Quartets: 11, Audio cassette, The British Council/Bloodaxe Books, 1998
  • The Frog Who Dreamed She was an Opera Singer (poems for children), Bloomsbury, 1999
  • Why Don't You Stop Talking? (fiction), Picador, 2002
  • Life Mask, Bloodaxe , 2005
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  • Jackie Kay Reading from her poems, The Poetry Archive, 2006
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  • Red Cherry Red (Book & CD) Bloomsbury, 2007
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  • Darling: New & Selected Poems, Bloodaxe Books 2007
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  • In Person 30 Poets, Edited by Neil Astley / Films by Pamela Robertson-Pearce, Bloodaxe Books 2008
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  • The Lamplighter, Bloodaxe Books 2008
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  • Wish I Was Here, Picador 2011
    Buy
Jackie Kay (b. 1961) is an award-winning writer of fiction, poetry and plays, whose subtle investigation into the complexities of identity have been informed by her own life. Born in Edinburgh to a Scottish mother and Nigerian father, she was adopted as a baby by a white couple. Kay's awareness of her different heritages inspired her first book of poetry, The Adoption Papers, which dramatises her experience through the creation of three contrasting narrators: an adoptive mother, a birth mother and a daughter. The book was a great success, winning the Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year and a commendation from the Forward Poetry Prize judges. Subsequent collections and her celebrated first novel, Trumpet, have continued to explore issues of cultural and sexual identity as well as the intimacies and upheavals of love. Kay has also written poetry for children and her first children's novel, Strawgirl, was published in 2002. She currently lives in Manchester.

When Kay began writing "there wasn't anybody else saying the things I wanted to say...I started out of that sense of wanting to create some image of myself." However, though she draws on autobiography, Kay is skilful at fictionalising this material, thereby allowing the reader more space to enter her work. The inherent drama of her poetry is influenced by the Scottish tradition of public verse, of ballad, song and the recitations of countless childhood Burns' nights. Music has also had a significant impact, particularly the rhythms of jazz and blues. This is most obvious in her poems based on the life of the jazz singer, Bessie Smith, but is inherent in all her work, particularly in her use of refrain. Her repetition of lines and phrases is often affiliated with loss, in love poems such as 'Spoons' and 'Her' or in the wistful elegy for an imaginary childhood friend, 'Brendon Gallacher'.

This combination of dramatic intensity and musicality lends itself to performance. In her Archive recording, Kay's Glaswegian lilt is still to the fore, at home in the 'Old Tongue' even as she describes her fear of losing it. It's precisely the rooted quality of her accent that makes the encounters with African culture so powerful, vividly enacting the tensions of her inheritance for the listener.

Her recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 22 August 2005 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Anne Rosenfeld.

Prizes

1991 Eric Gregory Award
Website

1992 Forward Poetry Prize (commendation), The Adoption Papers
Website

1992 Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award, The Adoption Papers
Website

1992 Scottish Arts Council Book Award, The Adoption Papers
Website

1993 Signal Poetry Award, Two's Company
Website

1994 Somerset Maugham Award, Other Lovers
Website

1998 Poetry Book Society Recommendation, Off Colour
Website

1998 The Guardian Fiction Prize, Trumpet
Website

1998 The Authors' Club First Novel Award, Trumpet
Website

1999 Signal Poetry Award, The Frog Who Dreamed She was an Opera Singer
Website

2003 Cholmondeley Award
Website

2005 Poetry Book Society Recommendation, Life Mask
Website

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