Kay and Scottish literature

An animated summary of how Jackie Kay uses different voices in her poetry. Note that this clip refers to 'Bed' and 'Divorce' which no longer feature on the National 5 Set Text list.

The creation of an authentic voice is an essential part of Kay’s writing. Whether a grandmother, mother or daughter, Kay integrates genuine expression and dialogue into her verse. This helps bring her poetry to life, allowing the reader to empathise on a greater level with the personalities we encounter.

For example, in the poem ‘Old Tongue’, Kay compares a rich range of Scots words and contrasts them with English phrases to explore how important language can be to expressing who we are. This is similar to other Scottish writers such as poets Edwin Morgan and Liz Lochhead, and playwright Ena Lamont Stewart, who have also sought to capture the idiosyncrasies of Scottish dialogue in print.

There is also an element of this in the austerity of the grandmother in ‘My Grandmother’s Houses’, who attends church and cleans houses into her 70s.