Celebration of Robert Burns’ favourite poet

Sunday 3 September 2000

A live poetry event featuring a galaxy of contemporary Scottish poets is to be held at the University of St Andrews.

The St Andrews Scottish Studies Institute (SASSI) has commissioned ten poems from ten contemporary poets to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Robert Fergusson’s birth (Tuesday 5 September 1750). A University of St Andrews graduate, Fergusson was seen by many as the man who inspired Robert Burns to write poetry.

The event – to be held on Friday 6 October 2000 – is a major element of StAnza 2000, Scotland’s poetry festival, and is the highlight in a year-long celebration of Fergusson’s life and is thought to be the most ambitious act of poetic commissioning ever carried out by a University.

Poems to be read will cover the Scottish, English and Gaelic tongue with contributions from Meg Bateman, John Burnside, Robert Crawford, Douglas Dunn, W N Herbert, Tracey Herd, Kathleen Jamie, Edwin Morgan, Les Murray and Don Paterson.

Supported by the Scottish Arts Council, the day-long event will be divided into two parts. The afternoon will see Robert Crawford, Douglas Dunn and W N Herbert giving a series of public lectures on Fergusson and his legacies to modern Scottish poetry, while Scottish novelist James Robertson will launch his new edition of Fergusson’s verse. Open to the public and free of charge, the afternoon event will take place in Lower College Hall, St Salvator’s Quadrangle, St Andrews from 2pm to 5pm.

Meanwhile, the evening will play host to Heaven-Taught Fergusson, a once-in-a-lifetime event with readings from the ten poets. The event, to be held in Younger Hall, North Street, St Andrews, will also see the launch and signing session of The New Penguin Book of Scottish Verse. Edited by Robert Crawford and Mick Imlah, the book is the first ever anthology of fifteen centuries of Scottish poetry from St Columba to Don Paterson. Tickets for the evening event cost £7 (£5 for concessions) and are available from the StAnza box office, The Crawford Arts Centre, North Street, St Andrews on telephone 01334 474610.

Robert Fergusson was born in Edinburgh in 1750, attended Dundee High School and began writing poetry while studying at the University of St Andrews. It soon became clear that he had a gift for satire and went onto write both fondly and scathingly of St Andrews and Scotland as a whole, most memorably in “Auld Reekie” when he described his Edinburgh birthplace. While writing in St Andrews, he championed the University janitor while condemning the Principal and Professors for downgrading native culture. Described by Burns as “Heaven-taught” and “By far my elder Brother in the muse”, Fergusson died insane in an Edinburgh asylum at the age of 24, when Burns was just 15. Burns died 11 years later at the age of 36.

Today, the University of St Andrews employs several leading Scottish writers including John Burnside, Robert Crawford, Douglas Dunn and Kathleen Jamie and is centre of excellence for creative writing and Scottish studies. Based in the School of English, the St Andrews Scottish Studies Institute brings together some of Scotland’s foremost poets and specialists in Scottish cultural history to offer interdisciplinary research, taught postgraduate and undergraduate degrees. SASSI’s staff are editing the largest ever history of Scotland and, later this year, will publish major works on Scottish literature, history and art history, in addition to new creative work.

For more details, visit the SASSI website at http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/institutes/sassi/, the StAnza website at http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/~stanza or telephone Robert Crawford at the University of St Andrews on 01334 462666.


NOTE TO EDITORS: Further information, poet biographies and details on press access to the event(s) can be obtained from Claire Grainger – contact details below.

Issued by Beattie Media on behalf of the University of St Andrews For more information please contact Claire Grainger on 01334 462530, 07730 415015 or email [email protected] Ref: robertfergusson2/standrews/chg/4sep2000

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