Seven of our favourite Scottish poets

As rich in poetic talent as it is in natural beauty, discover our edit of some of the finest poets hailing from Scotland. 

Scotland is a country with a rich poetic tradition, from Robert Burns, known as the National Bard, to Carol Ann Duffy who served as Britain's Poet Laureate from 2009 to 2019. To celebrate St Andrew's Day, here we've shared some of our favourite poetry collections by modern Scottish poets.

Jackie Kay

Jackie Kay was born in Edinburgh in 1961 and grew up in Glasgow. She has written all her life. Several of her adult poetry collections have won or been shortlisted for awards across the board. Jackie lives in Manchester with her son. In 2016 she was named the National Poet for Scotland.

The Lamplighter

by Jackie Kay

First produced as a play, on the page The Lamplighter reads as a profound and tragic multi-layered poem. We watch as four women and one man tell the story of their lives through slavery, from the fort, to the slave ship, through the middle passage, following life on the plantations, charting the growth of the British city and the industrial revolution. Constance has witnessed the sale of her own child; Mary has been beaten to an inch of her life; Black Harriot has been forced to sell her body; and our lead, the Lamplighter, was sold twice into slavery from the ports in Bristol. Their different voices sing together in a rousing chorus that speaks to the experiences of all those brutalised by slavery, and lifts in the end to a soaring and powerful conclusion.

Carol Ann Duffy

Carol Ann Duffy was born in Glasgow but now lives in Manchester, where she is Professor and Creative Director of the Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University.

She has written for both children and adults, and her poetry has received many awards, including the Signal Prize for Children's Verse, the Whitbread, Forward and T. S. Eliot Prizes, and the Lannan and E. M. Forster Prize in America. She was appointed Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom in 2009. In 2011 The Bees won the Costa Poetry Award, and in 2012 she won the PEN Pinter Prize. She was made a DBE in the 2015 New Year Honours list.

Duffy wrote the poem 'September 2014' on the morning after the Scottish independence referendum.

Read 'September 2014' by Carol Ann Duffy

Collected Poems

by Carol Ann Duffy

Containing all of the poems from her nine volumes of adult poetry, as well as her beloved Christmas poems, this is the essential collection for and Carol Ann Duffy fans, or anyone wanting to discover her for the first time.

John Glenday

John Glenday was born in Broughty Ferry in 1952. His first collection, The Apple Ghost, won a Scottish Arts Council Book Award and his second, Undark, was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, as was his third, Grain. He lives in Cawdor, and works for NHS Highland as an addictions counsellor.

Glenday's poetry can be playful, experimental and occasionally surreal, and his voice local and intimate.

Selected Poems

by John Glenday

John Glenday is poet who constantly blindsides and moves us, whose direct and pure lyric brings us, again and again, face-to-face with the mystery of our being here. The elemental themes long associated with Glenday’s name are strongly represented in this collection, but new readers will also find a wonderful poet of familial and romantic love, as well as a sly humourist and satirist; as the book also features work from long-out-of-print early collections, they will also discover that Glenday's voice has always been uniquely his own.

Kathleen Jamie

Kathleen Jamie was born in the west of Scotland in 1962. Her poetry collection The Tree House, won both the Forward Prize and the Scottish Book of the Year Award. Mr and Mrs Scotland are Dead was shortlisted for the 2003 International Griffin Prize. The Overhaul, was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize 2012 and won the Costa Poetry Award 2012. She is Chair of Creative Writing at Stirling University, and lives with her family in Fife.

Selected Poems

by Kathleen Jamie

Kathleen Jamie’s Selected Poems gathers together some of the finest work by one of the foremost poets currently writing in English. Although Jamie is perhaps best known for her writing on nature, landscape, and place, Selected Poems shows the full and remarkably diverse range of her work – and why many regard her work as crucially relevant to our troubled age.

Kate Clanchy

Kate Clanchy was born and grew up in Scotland and now lives in Oxford. Her poetry collections Slattern, Samarkand and Newborn have brought her many literary awards and an unusually wide audience. 

She writes poems about men and boys, school and home, the foreign and the familiar, and the grand adventure of parenthood, but above all about love in all its forms. Kate is a witty, lyrical and truly accessible poet.

Selected Poems

Book cover for Selected Poems

Kate Clanchy's poems are much broadcast, translated and anthologised. This Selected Poems draws together her three prize-winning collections, SlatternSamarkand, and Newborn, published between 1996 and 2004. These are poems about men and boys, school and home, the foreign and the familiar, and the grand adventure of parenthood, but above all about love in all its forms, gathered together in a single volume. This volume is a perfect introduction to a witty, lyrical and truly accessible poet; and for long-term fans, an integrated and satisfying assembly of Clanchy's very best work.

Robin Robertson

One of the most important poetic voices to have emerged from the UK in the last twenty-five years and the very first poet to be published on the Picador Poetry list back in 1997. Robin Robertson is originally from the north-east coast of Scotland. 

Robertson's lyrical, brooding, dark and often ravishingly beautiful verse has seen him win almost every major poetry award; readers on both sides of the Atlantic have delighted in his preternaturally accurate ear and eye, and his utterly distinctive way with everything from the love poem to the macabre narrative.


by Robin Robertson

A grimoire is a manual for invoking spirits. Here, Robin Robertson and his brother Tim Robertson – whose accompanying images are as striking as cave-paintings – raise strange new forms which speak not only of the potency of our myths and superstitions, but how they were used to balance and explain the world and its predicaments. Haunting and elemental, Grimoire has the same charged beauty as the Scottish landscape – a beauty that can switch, with a mere change in the weather, to hostility and terror.

Don Paterson

Don Paterson was born in Dundee in 1963. He is the author of Nil Nil, winner of the Forward Prize for Best First Collection; God's Gift to Women - winner of both the T. S. Eliot Prize and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize; and Landing Light, which won both the T. S. Eliot Prize and the Whitbread Prize for Poetry.

Rain, won the Forward Prize for Best Collection in 2009, the same year that he was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry. His Selected Poems appeared in 2012.

Paterson’s work is notable for its traditional formal and technical elements, specifically an adherence to rhyme and regular metre. But this use of conventional form acts as a counterpoint to unsettling subject-matter, ambivalent narrative personae, black humour and a scouring of illusions.

He works as a musician and editor, teaches at the University of St Andrews, and lives in Kirriemuir, Scotland.

Read 'Mercies' from 40 Sonnets by Don Paterson

40 Sonnets

by Don Paterson

Book cover for 40 Sonnets

This collection from Don Paterson is a series of forty sonnets. Some take a more traditional form, some are highly experimental, but what these poems share is a lyrical intelligence and musical gift that has been visible in his work since his first book of poems, Nil Nil, in 2009. This is a rich and accomplished  work from one of the foremost poets writing in English today.

If you're looking for more beautiful Scottish poetry:

My Heart’s in the Highlands

by Gaby Morgan

With poems from famous Scottish writers such as Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Mary Queen of Scots herself there is plenty here to enjoy and inspire. The collection roams across so many aspects of Scottish life and culture; its landscape and its history, its people and its celebrations. It’s a country that has always inspired poets to write about love, nature and heritage, and to reflect on the important things of life.

A Year of Scottish Poems

by Gaby Morgan

A Year of Scottish Poems is a glorious collection of 366 poems compiled by Gaby Morgan. Reflecting the changing seasons, landscape and history of Scotland and her people and marking key dates in the Scottish calendar – from Burns Night to Hogmanay – these poems are powerful, thoughtful and uplifting.