Hugh McMillan, 2017 Recipient

Hugh-McMillanHugh McMillan is a poet and writer from Dumfries and Galloway. He has been shortlisted for, and awarded, many prizes, the latest being the Callum MacDonald Prize in May 2017. He is widely published and anthologised. In the last six months he was chosen as one of the half dozen poets whose work featured in a National Poetry Day postcard, he was selected as one of the poets in the Best Scottish poems of 2016 Anthology, and was awarded the post of Michael Marks poet in residence at the Harvard Summer School in July 2017. His selected poems ‘Not Actually being in Dumfries’ was published by Luath in 2015.

Awards and Publications


Callum Macdonald Memorial Prizewinner in 2009 and 2016
Shortlisted Basil Bunting Poetry Award in 2015
Commission by Wigtown Book Festival to write sequel to Gallovidian Encyclopaedia in 2014
Winner of five Scottish Arts Council/Creative Scotland Bursaries in 1990-2012
Shortlisted for the Michael Marks award in 2010
Runner-Up for The Cardiff International Poetry Competition in 2010
Smith/ Doorstep Poetry Prizewinner in 2004
Winner Scottish National Open Poetry Competition in 1997


Flotsam (Flarestack 2018)
Sheeppenned (Roncadora 2016)
Not Actually Being in Dumfries (Luath 2015)
McMillan’s Galloway (Luath 2016)
The Other Creatures in the Wood (Mariscat 2014)
Thin Slice of Moon (Roncadora, Dumfries 2012)
The Lost Garden (Roncadora, Dumfries 2010)
Strange Bamboo (Shoestring, England 2001)
Aphrodite’s Anorak (Peterloo, England 1996)
Horridge (Chapman Edinburgh 1995)
Tramontana (Dog and Bone Glasgow 1990)

Many other pamphlets and chapbooks

Included in numerous anthologies and magazines including ‘The Edinburgh Book of 20th Century Scottish Poetry’ (Edinburgh University Press) ‘The Methuen Book of Poems for Every Day’ (Methuen) ‘Twentieth Century Scottish Literature’ (Mainstream ) ‘Oxford Poets 2002’ (Carcanet), ‘Best British Poems of 2012’ (Salt), the Scottish Poetry Library Anthologies ‘Best Scottish Poems of 2005’, ‘Best Scottish Poems of 2009’‘Best Scottish Poems 2016’. His poems have also been chosen three times to feature in National Poetry Day postcards, the latest in 2016.


Selected Poems from Recent Work


Here is a letter
come across the membrane of ocean
over the back of a world
curved like a whale.
I unwrap it, like tissue,
and sentences spill out,
as though the seal on a jar has broken,
coils of cornflower blue
on paper thin as shell.

I saw a sailor’s valentine once
in a museum in Nantucket Sound,
a mosaic of broken scallop
glued in a compass rose.
‘Writ from the heart’ it said.
Words come best like that:
in ink or blood,
when the source is from a major vein.

I read, and understand this much:
if ink sees off time and miles,
then so must love.

May Revision

Answers. Remember there are three,
one each from Sections A and B,
and one from those or Section C,
though that one could be
hard I reckon.
May revision,
the long days beckon.

Write lucidly, remember.
Fill the page.
be sure to know where
dates apply. Gauge
the time. You know the drill,
and can see the sun
spark clouds of broom on dreaming hills.

Remember Sarajevo. Who can say
the province that it sat in,
the time of murder, month and day,
and the name of the assassin?
Alison, you know better than to chatter
and stray to thoughts of love,
or sex, and things that really matter. 

Hard work, remember.
That’s the way you all succeed.
Don’t you dare relax,
or heed
friends that do. And class,
don’t dance on old chalk paths
or run stark naked through the grass. 

Remember this, one last good luck.
Take two pens
and if you’re stuck
move on. And if you’ve sense
move on, forget the lot.
Do your May revision
in an older school of thought.

Reviews and links:

Recent Critical Reception

“One could say that McMillan’s Galloway is an Encyclopedia in the same way that the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a travel-book. His Galloway is less a geographic than an imaginary space, an imagined place more like, built on and in dialogue with perspectives borrowed from those who have written, drawn, filmed or simply visited it in the past, including the recent past (see Anthony Hopkin’s Bench) and including those who have lived and survived here over the centuries, its extremists and its ordinary people, who were often both – all of whom McMillan savours and argues with, or about, in ebullient and informative style as befits his literary and historical background and local cultural pursuits and interests.”
Alistair Finlay (On ‘McMillan’s Galloway’)

“Poems that are special, at once local, personal and universal. One of best books of the year. Treat yourself.”
Andrew Greig

 “I was entertained and moved. Some of these pieces work like resonant and intricately packed short stories.”
Lesley Glaister


A brief comment from Hugh McMillan about being in Greece, in 2017

I arrived a week later in Greece so I missed the trips to Epidauros and Mycenae but luckily for me I already had had the pleasure of visiting these timeless places on previous occasions. I must say I love Greece. I'm a lover of light and nowhere does it quite like Greece (maybe Scotland three days a year) so I enjoyed all my time there immensely. The hospitality was overwhelming and it was a great experience to meet people so open, frank, interesting and welcoming. The difficulties facing the Greek people, some of which we share in common, seem overwhelming but the human spirit is indomitable. Probably the moment I will remember most is sitting in the taverna in the village of the poet Stratis Haviaras watching the lights of the Palimidi in Nafplio while he talked of his father's imprisonment and execution there. Poets bind time together with words but sometimes the words are hard.

I wrote a lot while I was there and have at least two poems from the time which I hope are good enough to see the light of day in print. I hope to travel back to Greece soon so the people I met may have not seen the last of me!