Christine de Luca and Catriona Cox
The Edinburgh Makar is a three-year appointment with an honorarium provided by Edinburgh City Council and support from UNESCO City of Literature, the Poetry Library, the Saltire Society and PEN.
Better known in her native Shetland, Christine has however lived in the city for over 50 years, working in education and as both a poet and a writer of a novel and of children's stories.
Her aim was to be an ambassador for poetry and to take it into unexpected corners of the city where it had gone uncelebrated, and typical assignments were to mark the 10th anniversary of its becoming the first City of Literature and the 50th of its being twinned with Florence.
Recipients of the Edinburgh Award are acknowledged by the Makar, and these in her time included fundraiser Tom Gilzean, businessman Sir Tom Farmer and boxer Ken Buchanan - which was especially challenging since unlike Glasgow with Jim Watt, Edinburgh had never really embraced boxing. Poems might be commissioned to salute literary legends, eg other poets including Robert Burns, and clients included the Planning Department, Leith Festival, Riding of the Marches and the Royal Mile Business Association. The Council took up Christine's suggestion of the Edinburgh Gift, a poem to present to visiting dignitaries or on missions overseas.
With her son, Christine started a blog as a development of the legacy of Stewart Conn, Valerie Gillies and Ron Butlin that she might pass on to her successors. Pupils were invited to tweet your street with a description not exceeding one hundred characters which had to be checked for sweary words.
Her Edinburgh Unsung initiative sought to celebrate the people without whose jobs the city would not function, and a visit to the highly clinical sewage treatment centre operated by Veolia earned her the Sun headline "Edinburgh Makar writes about poo". Coverage of the work of binmen meant an early start in a hi-vis jacket, observing performances reminiscent to her of Strictly Come Dancing routines that were watched from windows by children who in a previous era might have been spotted by RLS watching Leerie the Lamplighter.
They watch out for each other,
know the drill to make it flow:
grab two bins, birl them, make a pair,
nudge them to the cradle, check and
trundle them back, grab two more…
it’s a Dashing White Sergeant
it’s a repertoire, with rhythm
and precision, a get up and go.
Bins dance in sequence too:
handstands, a wobble, balance, then
down to waiting hands, while
the hopper compacts and gobbles.
Leith was of particular appeal in view of its forgotten corners but also as the place where Shetlanders had once collected their mail or awaited a berth on a ship to take them home. Tackling John Knox gave her the feeling that he had been hard done by, but she enjoyed capturing the sexless atmosphere of the White Heather Club. Exploring Paolozzi at large in Edinburgh carried the chance to describe the clamjamfrey of his studio.
A celebration of the Edinburgh Festival at 70 carried a deadline of only three weeks, and after a previous career dominated by Shetlandic her three years as Makar were spent almost entirely writing in English - she was only just getting the hang of the role when her term came to an end. As a geographer, she has always had a feel for the land and its people, and that continued through her time in the office.