“Poetry gives a voice to the voiceless. A poem is a little moment of belief.”
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About Jackie Kay
Who are we and where have we come from? These are the questions that run though Jackie Kay’s poetry. Very often, the answer is to do with the things we imagine and the stories we tell. And so you can hear about an imaginary friend, an imaginary life wearing someone else’s running shoes, and a birthmark imagined as a map of Australia,
Jackie is also fascinated with the way that people talk, and often writes poems in a different voices. Sometimes it is the voice of a particular person, but it could be a fish or even a house. In some poems, we don’t know exactly who is speaking – and that can be part of the fun! In one of those poems, ‘Double Trouble’, she explores the idea of opposites. The reading is quite fast, but notice the subtle variations in pitch and pace that signal a change of idea.
In all Jackie’s performances you’ll hear her warm, smiling voice that can also sound wistful at times. And you’ll certainly hear her lilting Glasgow accent.
Although many of Jackie’s poems do not have regular rhymes and lines, there’s always a strong rhythm. She also makes very effective use of half-rhymes and echoes of rhymes. Listen to the way that ‘Brendon Gallacher’ is rhymed with ‘cat-burglar’ and ‘some place far’.
Jackie was born in Scotland to a Scottish mother and a Nigerian father. Soon after she was born, she was adopted by a white parents and grew up in Glasgow. Her family were very involved in politics and working for social justice. She says that she started writing poems when she was 12, and they were mainly about what she thought was wrong with the world.
As a child, Jackie loved drama and wanted to be an actress. She heard traditional poetry at Burns Night suppers, and was excited by the idea that poetry could be performed in a dramatic way. As a teenager, she went to “poems and pints nights” and was thrilled to hear poets read in the Glasgow dialect. It made her realise that poems could be written in ordinary, everyday language.
Jackie writes plays, novels and short stories as well as her poetry.
Jackie's recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 22 August 2005 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Anne Rosenfeld.
Discover all poems by Jackie Kay
Poems by Jackie Kay
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The CLiPPA Collection
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An Interview with Jackie Kay
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Red Cherry Red, Bloomsbury, 2007
The Frog Who Thought She Was an Opera Singer, Bloomsbury, 1998
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