Dr Peter Mackay was selected as one of the 10 New Generation Thinkers by BBC Radio 3. He has devoted his studies to Scottish and Irish poetry beginning with his MA from Glasgow University and PhD from Trinity College, Dublin. Since his university days he has worked at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, Queen’s University Belfast, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. He currently holds a position at the University of St Andrews. Mackay has published several books on contemporary Irish and Scottish poetry and his own poetry and short stories have appeared in many collections.

Peter is appearing at Faclan on Saturday 28 October at 10.30am AN LEABHAR LIATH: THE LIGHT BLUE BOOK

We asked Peter a few questions about him coming home to Lewis for Faclan:

This Year’s FaclanTheme is Ultima Thule: a place beyond the borders of the known world or the “unknown”, Tell us a little about how your work relates to this year’s theme.

Much of my work is about unknown or little known pasts, histories that are on the edge of cultural awareness and can be explored and connected in perhaps unexpected ways. And the sublimes of language – the deep troughs and chasms that words can open up between and inside themselves.

What are you most looking forward to about visiting Lewis?

Home. The moor. The beat of the Atlantic

Where do you go when you want to go “off the Map”?

High into the Alupjarras

What was the last book you read?

Sinéad Morrissey, On Balance; Giorgio Agamben, What is an Apparatus; Elizabeth Bowen, The House in Paris, Dàibhidh Eyre, Cailèideascop, Mary Beard, SPQR (always too many books on the go at once)

What for you is the easiest and/or the most difficult part of writing?

I am a big fan or rewriting, and redrafting, of shaping the clay. Getting it out of the ground in the first place isn’t always that easy.

Do you have any new projects coming up? 

Another collection of poems. An academic book on the present-day hangovers of Romanticism. Some radio squibs.


An Leabhar Liath/The Light Blue Book: This collection, covering 500 years of transgressive Gaelic poetry with new English translations, breaks the mould for anthologies of Gaelic verse. It offers poems that are erotic, rude, seditious and transgressive; that deal with love, sex, the body, politics and violent passion; and that are by turns humorous, disturbing, shocking and enlightening. In scholarly introductions in Gaelic and English the editors give contexts for the creation, transmission and value of these poems, as historical documents, as joyous – or tragic – works of art, as products of a culture and counter-cultures that have survived centuries of neglect, suppression or threats of being `burned by the hand of the common executioner’. After reading this book, you won’t think of Gaelic culture in quite the same way ever again.