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Liz Lochhead wins the Saltire Society Lifetime Achievement Award

  08 Dec '23   |  Posted by: Birlinn

The Saltire Society hosted the annual Scotland’s National Book Awards last night in Glasgow, where it was announced that Liz Lochhead has won their Lifetime Achievement Award. We are enormously proud to publish Liz’s exceptional body of poetry, and are thrilled that her contribution to the Scottish literary scene has been recognised in this way. This autumn, we published A Handsel: New and Collected Poems, celebrating fifty years of poetry

Poet and playwright Liz Lochhead, recipient of The Saltire Society Lifetime Achievement Award 2023, was born in Motherwell in 1947.  She began to write while studying at the Glasgow School of Art and her first book of poetry was publishing in 1972, selling 5,000 copies and winning a Scottish Arts Council Book Award.  She has published many plays including Blood and IceDraculaCuba and possibly most famously Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off.  She translated and adapted Molière’s Tartuffe into Scots, which premiered at the Edinburgh Royal Lyceum in 1987, and the script of her adaptation of Euripides’ Medea for Theatre Babel won the 2000 Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year Award.  Her work for television includes Latin for a Dark Room, a short film, screened as part of the BBC Tartan Shorts season at the 1994 Edinburgh International Film Festival, and The Story of Frankenstein for Yorkshire Television. Her latest collection of poetry, A Handsel: New and Collected Poems was published in October this year.

Lochhead was Writer in Residence at Edinburgh University (1986-7), Writer in Residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1988 and was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Edinburgh in 2000.  In 2005 she was made Poet Laureate of Glasgow and in 2011 became Scots Makar.

The Judges commented “Liz Lochhead is the very epitome of an exceptional and versatile writer who has made an outstanding contribution to the Scottish literary ecology. She has been a literary trailblazer, inspiring generations of young people who study her work, and writers wishing to emulate her authenticity.  Liz has inspired and impacted the careers and creativity of countless contemporary poets around Scotland, and beyond. We owe her a debt of gratitude, particularly on the day we learn that Gaelic and Scots will be the official languages of Scotland. Liz embodies language and its potential for change and empowerment.”

Liz Lochhead said “I am even more surprised than I am honoured at the news I am to receive this award.  I will accept it with gratitude of course, although I genuinely don’t feel that I deserve it.   But then I have been very, very lucky all my writing life — particularly with the timing of when I was first published.   Very few women poets were being published then — and there was a hunger for a female voice. I was a novelty! I am very glad there are at least as many women as men writing and being published today.”

Liz’s editor and Polygon Editor Edward Crossan responded saying ‘In Fugitive Colours, Liz Lochhead wrote: “Poets need not / be garlanded / . . . All honour goes to poetry”. But on this occasion, the honour is deservedly shared by its poet. Liz Lochhead’s poetry is the bedrock of our list at Polygon; I’m honoured to work with her on new work and to publish her collected poems. I’m thrilled that her contribution to the literary landscape has been recognised by the Saltire Society with this award. Liz paved the way for so many authors, including Ali Smith, Jackie Kay and Kathleen Jamie; this lifetime achievement award, like her collected poems, is not the culmination of a career, but celebrates the continuation of a life’s work.’

Find out more about the Award ceremony and other winners here.

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