Hunterian Poems website header


Introduction and Acknowledgements

The poems featured here are a small selection from The Hunterian Poems anthology, published in 2015 and edited by Alan Riach, Professor of Scottish Literature at the University of Glasgow.

The anthology is a showcase of The Hunterian’s collection of paintings and a fascinating enquiry into the relations between the literary and visual arts, intellectually curious and charged with delight, full of unpredicted pleasures and wonders, opening deep questions, suggesting uncertainties, affirming resolutions.

It features works by Scotland’s national poets Liz Lochhead and Edwin Morgan, Glasgow’s poet laureate Jim Carruth and some of Scotland’s best poets writing in Gaelic, Scots and English including Meg Bateman, Gerda Stevenson and Aonghas MacNeacail. The paintings include works by Fergusson, Cadell, Peploe, Whistler, Chardin and Eardley.

There are two anthologies in The Hunterian Poems series. This online exhibition presents a selection from the first, The Hunterian Poems: An Anthology of Poems to Paintings from the collection of The Hunterian at the University of Glasgow, edited by Alan Riach (Glasgow: Freight Books, 2015). The second volume in the series is The Hunterian Museum Poems: A History of the World in Objects and Poems from The Hunterian Collection at the University of Glasgow, edited by Alan Riach (Glasgow: Freight Design, 2017).

Both are priced £12.99 and are available for purchase from the University of Glasgow Shop. While the Shop is currently closed for face-to-face operations due to the University's approach to minimising the risk associated with the spread of the COVID-19 virus, orders may be placed online and will be despatched at the end of June. Using the discount code DELAY20 gives you 20% off your entire order. Visit the University of Glasgow Shop to place your order. 

Edwin Morgan’s ‘Lady Taking Tea’ and ‘To Joan Eardley’ are reproduced by permission of Carcanet Press. Elizabeth Burns’s ‘The Visitation’ is reproduced by permission of Elizabeth Burns’s Estate.

About the Poets

Meg Bateman (b.1959) was born in Edinburgh and teaches at Sabhal Mor Ostaig, University of the Highlands and Islands. She paints as a hobby and the invitation to respond to the Colourists' work drew together her interest in painting, Iona and philosophy. A poet in both Gaelic and English, Transparencies (2013) is her fourth collection. She has also co-edited five anthologies of historical Gaelic verse.

Elizabeth Burns (1957-2015) published four collections of poetry, Ophelia and Other Poems (1991), The Gift of Light (1999), The Lantern Bearers (2007) and Held (Polygon, 2010). Her pamphlets include The Shortest Days, winner of the Michael Marks Award for Poetry Pamphlets, and The Scarlet Thread, a sequence on the painter Anne Redpath.

Jim Carruth (b.1963) has had six well-received pamphlet collections of poetry since his first, Bovine Pastoral in 2004. He has won both the James Mccash poetry competition and the McLellan poetry prize and was awarded a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship in 2009. His words have been etched in stone as part of Andy Scott's Kelpies sculpture. He was appointed Glasgow Poet Laureate in July 2014 and his first full collection Killochries was published in 2015. He is current chair of St Mungo's Mirrorball (the Glasgow poetry network) and artistic adviser for the StAnza poetry festival. His most recent collections are Black Cart (Birlinn, 2017) and Bale Fire (Birlinn, 2019).

Lesley Duncan As poetry editor of The Herald newspaper, Lesley Duncan has for almost two decades chosen and introduced the newspaper's popular daily poem feature. Her own collection, Images Not Icons, was published in 201O, as were two poetry pamphlets on Scottish histor­ical themes. Her own poetry has been published in her newspaper, online, and in a number of anthologies. She has co-edited various anthologies, including the major Edinburgh Book of Twentieth-Century Scottish Poetry (with the late Maurice Lindsay), The Wallace Muse (with Elspeth King) and (with Alan Riach) The Smeddum Test, a compila­tion of 21st-century poetry in Scots from the annual McCash Poetry Competition. In 2014 she was made an Honorary Fellow of the Association for Scottish Literary Studies.

Gerrie Fellows (b.1954) Gerrie Fellows trained as a painter at several London art schools before moving to Glasgow in the early 1980s. Though her focus since then has been on writing, the visual remains for her a key source of under­standing. Her poetry collections include The Body in Space (Shearsman, 2014) and Uncommon Place (Shearsman, 2019).

John Glenday (b.1952) John Glenday's collection, Grain (Picador, 2009) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and was shortlisted for both the Ted Hughes Award and the Griffin International Poetry Prize. A fourth collection, The Golden Mean, was published by Picador in Autumn 2015.

Liz Lochhead (b.1947) Born Motherwell, Lanarkshire, wrote her first poem, The Visit, after entering Glasgow School of Art in 1965. First collection, Memo for Spring (1972) published while working as an art teacher in secondary schools in Bristol, Glasgow and Cumbernauld. Active in both theatre and poetry: plays include Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off (1987) and Medea (2000); poetry collections include Dreaming Frankenstein (1984); True Confessions and New Cliches (1985); The Colour of Black and White (2003); appointed Poet Laureate of Glasgow (2005-14) and Scots Makar (National Poet) in 2011.

Aonghas MacNeacail (b.1942) Now Borders-based, poet for over forty years. Poetry has taken him to Ireland, frequently (from Donegal to Kerry, Dublin to Tory Island), Tokyo, Seattle, the Finnish Arctic Circle, the UN Building in New York, and the Capitol in Rome. A Gaelic New and Selected, Laughing at the Clock, is available. Sheaves of new poems, in English, Scots and Gaelic, await publication.

Edwin Morgan (1920-2010) One of the major poets of the 20th century. Poet Laureate of Glasgow (1999-2004) and first-ever appointed Scots Makar (National Poet of Scotland), 2004-2010. Collected Poems (Carcanet, 1996); Collected Translations (Carcanet, 1996); A.D. A Trilogy of Plays on the Life of Jesus Christ (Carcanet, 2000); Cathures (Carcanet, 2002); The Play of Gilgamesh (Carcanet, 2005); Beyond the Sun: Scotland's Favourite Paintings (Luath, 2007); Dreams and Other Nightmares (Mariscat, 2010).

John Purser (b.1942) has published four books of poetry, the most recent being There Is No Night: New and Selected Poems (Kennedy & Boyd, 2014). His poetry has also appeared in many magazines and anthologies. Of his six radio plays commissioned by the BBC, Carver won a Giles Cooper Award and was published by Methuen. In 1992 his book Scotland's Music won him the McVitie Scottish Writer of the Year Prize. Purser is a Researcher at Sabhal Mor Ostaig, the Gaelic College on Skye.

Alan Riach (b.1957) Born in Lanarkshire, Professor of Scottish Literature, University of Glasgow. Books include poetry: Homecoming (2009) and Wild Blue: Selected Poems (2014); and criticism: Hugh MacDiarmid's Epic Poetry (1991), Representing Scotland (2005), and co-authored with Alexander Moffat, Arts of Resistance: Poets, Portraits and Landscapes of Modern Scotland (2008), described by the Times Literary Supplement as 'a landmark book', and Arts of Independence: The Cultural Argument and Why It Matters Most (2014). Riach and Moffat are also the co-editors of the annotated edition of J. D. Fergusson's radical manifes­to-book Modern Scottish Painting (1943; new edition, 2015).

Jeffrey Robinson, Honorary Senior Research Fellow in English at the University of Glasgow, has recently published The Walk: Notes on a Romantic Image (2005), Unfettering Poetry: The Fancy in British Romanticism (2006), and, with Jerome Rothenberg, Poems for the Millennium, Volume 3: The University of California Book of Romantic and Postromantic Poetry (2009, winner of the American Book Award 2010), and Untam'd Wing: Riffs on Romantic Poetry (201O), and, with Julie Carr, Active Romanticism: The Radical Impulse in Nineteenth-Century and Contemporary Poetic Practice (University of Alabama Press, 2015).

Gerda Stevenson (b.1959) is an award-winning actor, writer, director, singer/songwriter. Her poetry, drama and prose have been published, staged and broadcast throughout Britain and abroad. Her play Federer versus Murray (run­ner-up for the Best Scottish Contribution to Drama on the Edinburgh Fringe, 2011), toured to New York in 2012 and was published there by Salmagundi. Her first poetry col­lection is If This Were Real (Smokestack Books, 2013). She was winner of the YES Arts Festival Poetry Challenge, 2013. Currently writing her second poetry collection, an album of her own songs Night Touches Day was released in 2014. Her collection of poems Quines: Poems in Tribute to Women of Scotland (2018) was described by Jackie Kay as ‘fabulous…a ground-breaker.’