Forward Prize for Best First Collection
‘Jackie Kay tells the story of a black girl’s adoption by a white Scottish couple – from three different viewpoints: the mother, the birth mother and the daughter. This unique and honest volume of poems has been adapted for radio. Also included in the book are new poems reﬂecting issues of sexuality, Scottishness and being working-class’ – Spare Rib
‘Jackie Kay has been gathering a reputation for a few years as an outstanding young talent in British poetry and playwriting… The Adoption Papers could well become a key work of feminism in action… a wonderfully spirited, tender and crafted contribution to Scottish writing, to black writing, and to the poetry of our time. It is a work of the utmost generosity and truth’ – Alastair Niven, Poetry Review
‘These are brave, honest, unsentimental poems… Kay’s poetry can be loud with pain and rage, but sometimes it’s as though she whispers too, entering dreams, allowing herself a delicate imagery… This book is full of fresh, remarkable poetry; its rhythms sing from the page, demanding to be heard’ – Elizabeth Burns, The Scotsman
‘This poet’s history – a black child adopted and reared in Scotland – and the personae that have shone from her previous books in many genres since her first collection, The Adoption Papers, make reforging this particular identity an unusually complex matter. In different forms, tones and voices, these poems flicker fascinatingly between oppositions…The poems explore authenticity, allegiance, origins and memory through multiple masks’ – Ruth Padel, The Independent
‘Warm, tough, painful and often very funny poems’ – Fleur Adcock, Sunday Times
In 2022 The Adoption Papers was selected as one of ten books representing the 1990s in The Big Jubilee Read, a celebration of great books from across the Commonwealth to mark the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, one of only three poetry collections out of 70 books on the list.
Jackie Kay reads six poems
Jackie Kay was an adopted child of Scottish/Nigerian descent brought up by Scottish parents, the subject of the title-sequence of her first collection, The Adoption Papers (1991). Her poems draw on her own life and the lives of others to make a tapestry of voice and communal understanding. It is through talking her characters into being that she creates her own sense of self through her poems, which are conversational in tone but with jazz-inflected rhythms. In the extract from The Adoption Papers with which she begins this reading, the two characters speaking are the adoptive mother and the daughter (with the birth mother speaking in other chapters). This is followed by her readings of five other poems, some with introductions: ‘In my country’, ‘The Spare Room, ‘Twelve Bar Bessie’ (about Bessie Smith), ‘Old Tongue’ and ‘Darling’, all from Darling: New & Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2007). Pamela Robertson-Pearce filmed Jackie Kay at her home in Manchester on 23 November 2007. This film is from the DVD-anthology In Person: 30 Poets, filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce & edited by Neil Astley (Bloodaxe Books, 2008).
Ireland & EU: Click here to order from Books Upstairs in Dublin
USA: Click here to order from Indiebound or Bookshop.org