May Day

Jackie Kay

25 April 2024
96 pages


May Day is the long-awaited new poetry collection from one of our best-loved poets and former Makar of Scotland, Jackie Kay.

These poems cast an eye over several decades of political activism, from the international solidarity of the Glasgow of Kay’s childhood, accompanying her parents’ Socialist campaigns, through the feminist, LGBT+ and anti-racist movements of the 80s and 90s, up to the present day when a global pandemic intersects with the urgency of Black Lives Matter.

Kay brings to life a cast of influential figures, delving beneath the surfaces of received narratives: the Jamaican model Fanny Eaton, muse of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in England; Paul Robeson, Angela Davis and the poet Audre Lorde; and a ‘what-if’ poem concerning Rabbie Burns and a road-not-taken towards the West Indian slave trade. Woven through the collection is a suite of lyric poems concerning the recent losses of Kay’s parents: poems of grief and profound change that are infused with the light of love and celebration.

At the core of this vital and wonderful book are Jackie’s activist parents, and the book is filled with marches, demos, protests, dreams of Peggy Seeger and memories of Hugh MacDiarmid pushing a pram. Here’s a beautiful writer at the top of her game and if I ran Britain I would give out copies on the NHS. It’s a sublime, joyous, pot-banging volume of genius
Jackie Kay is a distinctively Scottish voice in British poetry. In her new collection, May Day, accessible and gratifying, the personal and the political are seamlessly interwoven.
Jackie Kay is the people‘s poet because she puts language where it starts - in our mouths, and holds it where it belongs - in our hearts