Dundee’s first makar will ensure City of Culture bid is well versed

WN Herbert, Dundees first makar.

Dundee’s UK City of Culture 2017 bid will be immortalised in verse after the appointment of the city’s first makar.

Dundonian writer WN Herbert will take up the position as poet for the city at the end of this month.

His first commission will be to write and perform a poem for Dundee’s city of culture campaign at a public event on September 30 to celebrate the competition deadline day in City Square.

Mr Herbert told The Courier he was “deeply honoured” at the appointment.

He said: “The city has been a major subject in my work for over 30 years. I’ve long been obsessed with Dundee’s history, its language, its cityscape, its poetry and its people, both living and dead.

“Dundee is particularly a city of poets, from the Wedderburns in the Reformation to renowned contemporary writers like Don Paterson, John Glenday and Tracy Herd.

“In fact, I think the first, unofficial act of my makar-ship was probably the co-editing, with Andy Jackson, of Whaleback City, an anthology of Dundee’s poets.”

Appointed by Literary Dundee, the makar’s responsibilities will be to mix traditional and technology, with the aim of generating a new audience for poetry, using social media platforms and collaborating with computer games students at Abertay University to develop digital poetry projects.

Mr Herbert said he was “delighted” that his first official duty was to write something to mark Dundee’s UK City of Culture 2017 bid.

He said: “Culture is something we have a remarkably deep and diverse source of in the literary and visual arts, as well as in drama, dance, the crafts and across the sciences into new technologies.

“In fact, my remit in this first year will be focused on the digital and, fittingly, my first poem will be drawn from the thousands of suggestions submitted online to We Dundee.

“What people hope for in relation to their city gives us an insight into what their hopes and dreams are for their own lives, what means most to them.

“I’ll be doing my best to convey that message of optimism and aspiration in that first poem and in this new post as the first, I hope, of many Dundee makars to come.”

Mr Herbert grew up in Dundee and has been shortlisted twice for the TS Eliot prize and twice for the Saltire. He is professor of poetry and creative writing at Newcastle University.

Literary Dundee director Anna Day said: “Bill was the obvious choice because we wanted someone who straddled the world of digital and traditional, someone who had their heart rooted in the city but with a global outlook who could use the makar position to spread the word that Dundee is home to a fantastic amount of poetic talent.”

Professor Louis Natanson, who leads computer games education at Abertay University, said: “Bill Herbert’s appointment as Dundee’s makar with an emphasis on digital is very exciting indeed.

“It shows not only how forward-thinking Literary Dundee is but also how all of our city’s creative communities work so closely together week in, week out.

“That sense of partnership and support is a big part of Dundee’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2017.”

Stewart Murdoch, who is leading the city of culture campaign, said: “A makar for Dundee will provide brilliant opportunities to celebrate our poetry heritage, to connect Dundonians of all ages with poetry through events, schools and digital delivery and to discover, nurture and champion new voices for the future.

“WN Herbert, Dundee’s ‘brilliant and notorious maverick’, will be an important and rich voice for the city.”