The #PlagueOPoems Project

By Hugh McMillan

As a break from our usual poems, today we’re proud to showcase Hugh’s wonderful #PlagueOPoems project, which you can check out here. Learn more about the project, listen to some poems by Andrew Greig, Selina Tusitala Marsh and Hannah Lavery, and find links to Hugh’s commentary below.

Hugh: On March 17th, a few days before the official lockdown began, I decided to start a daily video blog. I was aiming to feature the poetry I liked, and some of my own. After about a week of my own gibberings, I thought about using my own contacts list to ask other poets to send a video of themselves reading a relevant poem from their situation in lockdown. I got affirmatives from Marion McCready, Em Strang and Christie Williamson and the daily #plagueopoems was born. In the end 114 poets (thus far) have given their time and effort for absolutely nothing. I stopped the daily videos in August though the series still occasionally runs.

The blog has had more than 50,000 views and the poetry ranged from emerging Scottish poets to fully emerged Scottish ones like Dilys Rose, Gerda Stevenson, Bill Herbert, Andrew Greig, Stuart Conn and Ron Butlin and international ones like Carolyn Forché, Kimberley Blaeser and Selina Tusitala Marsh. The standard was exceptional and we also saw a great range of backgrounds: George Gunn had the best bookcase, Ann McManus the best kitchen ceiling, Angela Graham the best staircase. We saw everyone’s face except Ian Stephen who took the bedtime story approach of turning the pages of a book. There should have been Oscars.

I think that the project was so successful in Scotland that the Makar Jackie Kay was forced to do her own version. Needless to say hers was a bit more professional and involved more equipment than a dodgy laptop and a mobile phone.

Many people have contacted me to say how entertained and moved they were by many of the poems, how it introduced them to new poets and new poetry, and how it became a favourite daily feature during lockdown. I was thrilled by that: it was the whole purpose although in retrospect it also seemed a valuable legacy project capturing contemporary poets at a particularly peculiar vexatious (and ongoing) part of history.

Andrew Greig

Hugh: … [Andrew] is one of these writers who have helped (me and plenty of others) define what it is to be a modern Scot and a modern human being, because he writes about the stuff that builds us, love, landscape, politics, adversity…. (read more).

Selina Tusitala Marsh

Hugh: Selina’s poetry reads beautifully on the page but she too is a great performer of her work, and presents a striking and vivid figure… (read more).

Hannah Lavery

Hugh: [Hannah Lavery] is a versatile writer full of effervescent talent, writing for the stage and writing for the page… (read more).

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