Written by Kate Murray, Head of English at Dollar.
Scots Makar, Jackie Kay, says of Jenny that she is, quite simply, “a writer to watch out for” – high praise indeed from one of the country’s best loved poets, and all the more so when you learn Jenny is a pupil and boarder in FIV at Dollar. Her poem “In My Country” has just won First Prize in the National Poetry Competition for young poets aged 11-17, organised by The Out of Bounds Poetry Project and hosted by Newcastle University and University of Stirling.
From today, her poem can be read in the competition section of the Out of Bounds website, alongside a powerful video message from Jackie Kay about the importance of writing poetry and a special message for Jenny herself.
Jenny’s poem movingly captures the fragility and the importance of our connections to place and people. Poems about such things take on very poignant meanings at the moment when so many of us are divided from family/friends/place and are trying to navigate new realities.
Jackie Kay wrote about Jenny’s poem in her judgements:
“This poem is a tour de force and it moved me to tears. It is an astonishingly accomplished and thrilling poem. It makes you think of the way that writers are their places, and the way that their characters embrace them. Tam O’Shanter is in there, and Norman MacCaig and Muriel Spark and past Makars. It’s a truly stunning arc that the poem draws for us beginning with perhaps the clearances and taking us up to the present day. When I read this poem I thought Jenny is a writer to watch out for. I fully expect to be reading a book of hers one day.”
This is a tremendous achievement, and gives everyone in the school community a boost in these difficult and unusual times.
“In My Country”, written by Jenny (Form IV)
Heather remembers the trudge of boot;
Tenant farmers and families of the moor
Their absence – a pounding desolation.
Eccentric writers enveloped in brown coats
Fidgeting as thoroughbred horses do
When their sides are starred with mud.
Poems knocked at MacCaig’s door,
Burns’ Meg skirted past Alloway’s Auld haunted Kirk,
Miss Jean Brodie and her Girls
Sauntered through Cramond.
Their spirits ask questions
Half-written, half-said. Murmured word by word
‘Are we still welcome here?’
Like when travellers return and stand where they first stood.
There are trees slanted out like partners in a waltz,
Babies sent like skimming stones into the light
Stain-glass rivers that course with life.
Electric writers composing lines;
Sending out all the light they know. Border-crossing
From genre to genre, country to country.
Makars’ bracken poems are rooted in boggy Scottish soil,
But they uncurl and spread into stanzas that make connections
Across the globe.
In our country, people from
Other shores ask
‘Am I welcome here?’