Rabbie's inspiration marked by poetry in motion

January 21, 2000

As Burns Night approaches, commemorating Scotland's fav-ourite poet, St Andrews University is to honour Burns's own favourite Scottish poet with a year-long celebration.

The St Andrews Scottish Studies Institute has commissioned poems from ten contemporary poets to mark the 250th anniversary of Robert Fergusson's birth. Fergusson, born in Edinburgh in 1750, began writing poetry while studying at St Andrews. He championed the university janitor while condemning the principal and professors for downgrading native culture.

He is seen by many as the man who inspired Burns to write poetry, and was described by Burns as "Heaven-taught" and "by far my elder Brother in the muse". He died insane in an Edinburgh asylum, aged 24.

The St Andrews celebration is thought to be the most ambitious act of poetic commissioning ever carried out by a Scottish university.

The poems will cover Scots, English and Gaelic, with contributions from Meg Bateman, John Burnside, Robert Crawford, Douglas Dunn, W. N. Herbert, Tracey Herd, Kathleen Jamie, Edwin Morgan, Les Murray and Don Paterson.

Mr Burnside, Professor Crawford, Professor Dunn and Ms Jamie are leading writers and St Andrews academics.

"We offer postgraduate deg-rees, but we also teach poetry on the undergraduate programme, not as some kind of strange, separate occupation, but as part of what students are learning. They're learning about writing, not just about reading," said Professor Crawford.

The Scottish Arts Council is funding the project.

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