Prolific Scottish author Jackie Kay was born to a Scottish mother and Nigerian father in Edinburgh, and raised by adoptive white parents in Glasgow. Kay addresses this experience in her first collection of poetry, Adoption Papers (1991), which won a Scottish Arts Council Book Award, the Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award and a commendation by the Forward Poetry Prize judges in 1992. In addition to publishing two more collections of poetry, Kay has written novels, children’s fiction, short stories and the memoir Red Dust Road (2010), the story of meeting her Nigerian birth father, which was shortlisted for the PEN/Ackerley Prize in 2011.
I pull back the curtain an inch and see their heads bent together. I have no idea how long they have been there. It is getting dark. I keep expecting them to vanish; then I would know that they were all in my mind. I would know that I imagined them just as surely as I imagined my life. But they are still there, wearing real clothes, looking as conspicuous as they please. Each time I look at the photographs in the papers, I look unreal. I look unlike the memory of myself. I feel strange now. It used to be such a certain thing, just being myself. It was so easy, so painless.
I have to get back to our den, and hide myself away from it all. Animals are luckier; they can bury their heads in sand, hide their heads under their coats, pretend they have no head at all. I feel pain in the exact place Joss complained of for months. A stabbing pain on my left side. We couldn’t die of the same thing?
There’s a film I watched once, Double Indemnity, where the guy is telling his story into a tape, dying and breathless. I feel like him. I haven’t killed anyone. I haven’t done anything wrong. If I was going to make a tape, I’d make it for Colman.
Continue reading at The New York Times
- Collected writings for The Guardian.
- “Jackie Kay, Using Poetry to Help Female Asylum Seekers” by Janet Christie. The Scotsman. 10 March 2013.
- “Jackie Kay: A Poetic Imagining of Post-Racial (Be)longing” by Katy Massey. darkmatter. 29 November 2012.
- Interview with Adam Jacques. The Independent. 18 December 2011.
- Interview with Helen Brown. The Telegraph. 5 June 2010.
Seminar | April 9, 2013
Reading | April 9, 2013