Biography of Jackie Kay
Jackie Kay MBE (born 9 November 1961) is a Scottish poet and novelist.
Jackie Kay was born in Edinburgh in 1961 to a Scottish mother and a Nigerian father. She was adopted as a baby by a white Scottish couple, Helen and John Kay, and grew up in Bishopbriggs, a suburb of Glasgow, in a 1950s-built housing estate in a small Wimpey house, which her adoptive parents had bought new in 1957. They adopted Kay in 1961 having already adopted Jackie's brother, Maxwell, about two years earlier. Jackie and Maxwell also have siblings who were brought up by their biological parents. Her adoptive father worked for the Communist Party full-time and stood for Member of Parliament, and her adoptive mother was the Scottish secretary of Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. In August 2007, Jackie Kay was the subject of the fourth episode of the BBC Radio 4 series The House I Grew Up In, in which she talked about her childhood.
Initially harbouring ambitions to be an actress, she decided to concentrate on writing after Alasdair Gray, a Scottish artist and writer, read her poetry and told her that writing was what she should be doing. She studied English at the University of Stirling and her first book of poetry, the partially autobiographical The Adoption Papers, was published in 1991 and won the Saltire Society Scottish First Book Award. Her other awards include the 1994 Somerset Maugham Award for Other Lovers, and the Guardian First Book Award Fiction Prize for Trumpet, based on the life of American jazz musician Billy Tipton, born Dorothy Tipton, who lived as a man for the last fifty years of his life.
Kay writes extensively for stage (in 1988 her play Twice Over was the first by a Black writer to be produced by Gay Sweatshop Theatre Group), screen and for children. Her drama The Lamplighter is an exploration of the Atlantic slave trade. It was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in March 2007 and published in poem form in 2008.
In 2010 she published Red Dust Road, an account of her search for her natural parents. Her biological parents met when her father was a student at Aberdeen University and her mother was a nurse.
Jackie Kay was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) on 17 June 2006. She is currently Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University, and Cultural Fellow at Glasgow Caledonian University. Kay lives in Manchester. She took part in the Bush Theatre's 2011 project Sixty-Six Books, with a piece based upon a book of the King James Bible. In October 2014, it was announced that she had been nominated as the Chancellor of the University of Salford.
Jackie Kay Poems
The Mother Poem (Two)
I always wanted to give birth Do that incredible natural thing That women do-I nearly broke down
When I got home I went out into the garden Liking it when the frost bit
I did not promise to stay with you till death do us part, or anything like that,
You're a gem, you're a holy cairn You're a clattering shaw You're a Tongland Bridge
No. 115 dreams
The living room remembers Gran dancing to Count Basie. The kitchen can still hear my aunts fighting on Christmas day. The hall is worried about the loose banister. The small room is troubled by the missing hamster.
How they strut about, people in love, How tall they grow, pleased with themselves, Their hair, glossy, their skin shining. They don't remember who they have been.
She is that guid tae me so she is an Am a burden tae her, I know Am ur. Stuck here in this big blastit bed year in, year oot, ony saint wuid complain.
My Grandmother's Houses
1 She is on the second floor of a tenement. From her front room window you see the cemetery.
My mum is on a high bed next to sad chrysanthemums. ‘Don't bring flowers, they only wilt and die.' I am scared my mum is going to die on the bed next to the sad chrysanthemums.
The orchids my mother gave me when we first met are still alive, twelve days later. Although some of the buds remain closed as secrets.
That Distance Apart
I am only nineteen My whole life is changing Tonight I see her Shuttered eyes in my dreams
Sound Of Sleat
I always looked out at the world, And wondered if the world looked back at me, Standing on the edge of something, On my face- the wind from the cold sea.
Dark, the days when the ships came slowly in, Carrying the baggage from the old past, Old love letters, promises long since past.
Between the Dee and the Don
‘The middle ground is the best place to be' - Igbo saying I will stand not in the past or in the future
How they strut about, people in love,
How tall they grow, pleased with themselves,
Their hair, glossy, their skin shining.
They don't remember who they have been.
How filmic they are just for this time.
How important they've become - secret, above
The order of things, the dreary mundane.
Every church bell ringing, a fresh sign.