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 home >> online collections >> event archive >> archive of past symposia >> burns symposium >> participant biographies
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Experience the Events
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Robert Burns at 250:
Poetry, Politics & Performance

Symposium: February 24-25, 2009

Participant Biographies

 

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Margaret Bennett
Margaret Bennett
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Margaret Bennett was brought up in a family of tradition bearers, Gaelic on her mother’s side (from the Isle of Skye) and Lowland Scots on her father’s. With an MA in Folklore and a PhD in Ethnology, the former Edinburgh University lecturer "wears her scholarship lightly." Singer, storyteller and adjunct teacher at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, recipient of the Master Music Maker Award (USA) and Celtic Women International award (Canada) for "lifelong service to Scottish Culture," Bennett is widely regarded as one of Scotland’s foremost folklorists. Her prize-winning books include Oatmeal and the Catechism (1999), The Last Stronghold: Scottish Gaelic Traditions in Newfoundland, (1989), and Scottish Customs from the Cradle to the Grave, (2004). Her Robert Burns musical The Cotter’s Saturday Night, enjoyed sell-out success at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections Festival (2004—2006) and CD collaborations with her late son, Martyn, have been featured in theatre and film, including the recent international hit play The Black Watch). As the late Hamish Henderson wrote, "Margaret embodies the spirit of Scotland." For more information, visit Margaret Bennett's web site. External Link

Abstract: "The Spontaneous Language of My Heart: The Life and Songs of Robert Burns." This paper discusses the bard’s life of song, from his youthful beginnings, through events and emotions that inspired him to his last song, composed shortly before his death. Singers Ed Miller and Margaret Bennett will sing examples throughout the presentation.

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Peggy Bulger
Peggy Bulger, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress
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Peggy Bulger is Director of the American Folklife Center, the second person to hold that position since the Center was created by the U.S. Congress in 1976. A native of New York State, she holds a BA in fine arts from the State University of New York at Albany, an MA in folk studies from Western Kentucky University, and a PhD in folklore and folklife from the University of Pennsylvania. A folklorist, consultant, and producer, Bulger has been documenting folklife and developing and managing folklife programs for more than thirty years. She has been Florida State Folk Arts Coordinator (1976-79), Florida Folklife Programs Administrator (1979-89), and Program Coordinator, Director, and Senior Officer for the Southern Arts Federation (1989-99). Since 1985, Bulger has led folklore tours to Ireland combining her personal and professional interests. She is the author of South Florida Folklife, with Tina Bucuvalas and Stetson Kennedy, (1994) and the editor of Musical Roots of the South (1992). She is the producer of many videos, including Music Masters & Rhythm Kings (1993), Every Island Has Its Own Songs: The Tsimouris Family of Tarpon Springs (1988), Fishing All My Days: Maritime Traditions of Florida’s Shrimpers (1985); and a number of recordings, including Deep South Musical Roots Tour (1992) and Drop On Down in Florida (1981). She served as president of the American Folklore Society (2000-2002).

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Valentina Bold
Valentina Bold, University of Glasgow.
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Valentina Bold is Head of Scottish Studies at the University of Glasgow’s Dumfries campus. Robert Burns spent his final years in Dumfries, and Bold is part of the Burns Appreciation and Research in Dumfries (BARD) team there. She convenes the postgraduate program in Robert Burns Studies, as well as the master's degree program in Scottish Cultural Heritage. She is known for her work on Scottish poetry and song, and has a particular interest in the Scottish communities of the U.S. and Canada. Bold’s publications include James Hogg: A Bard of Nature’s Making (2007) and Smeddum: A Lewis Grassic Gibbon Anthology (2001), as well as the CD-ROM Northern Folk: Living Traditions of North East Scotland (1999). Her new edition of Burns’s Merry Muses of Caledonia will be published in 2009. On October 21, 2008 she presented a lecture at the Library of Congress, "A Bard of Nature's Making: Robert Burns and Scottish Traditional Culture".

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John Cole
John Y. Cole, Jr., Center for the Book, Library of Congress.
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John Y. Cole, Jr. , librarian and historian, is the founding and current Director of the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress. The Center for the Book was created in 1978 by Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin to use the resources of the Library to stimulate public interest in books and reading. Cole has a PhD in American Civilization from the George Washington University, and has published widely about the history of books, reading, and libraries, as well as the history and role of the Library of Congress. Most recently, he co-edited, with Jane Aikin, The Encyclopedia of the Library of Congress: For Congress, the Nation & the World (2004), a 569-page reference work. In 2000, Cole received the National Libary Association's Lippencott Award for distinguished service to the profession of librarianship.

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Ted Cowan
Ted Cowan, University of Glasgow.
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Ted Cowan, PhD, is a Professor of Scottish History and the Director of the University of Glasgow’s Crichton Campus, in Dumfries. He participates in the Burns Appreciation and Research in Dumfries (BARD) team. He received the Scottish Arts Council Award for his book Montrose For Covenant and King (1977, reprinted 1995). He is the author of several books on Scottish history and culture, including Folk in Print: Scotland’s Chapbook Heritage, 1750-1850, with Mike Patterson (2007); ‘For Freedom Alone’: The Declaration of Arbroath 1320 (2003); Scottish Fairy Belief: A History, with Lizanne Henderson (2007); Alba: Celtic Scotland in the Medieval Era, ed., with R. A. McDonald (2000, reprinted 2003); and Scotland Since 1688: Struggle for a Nation, with Richard Finlay (2000). He has also written many articles and edited a number of collections of articles related to Scottish history and culture.

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Robert Crawford
Robert Crawford, University of St. Andrews, 2007.
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Robert Crawford's most recent collection of poems, Full Volume, was shortlisted for the 2009 T. S. Eliot Prize. His prose books include Scotland's Books: A History of Scottish Literature (2009) and The Bard, a biography of Robert Burns (2009). He is Professor of Modern Scottish Literature at the University of St. Andrews. For more information visit Robert Crawford's web page at the University of St. Andrews.External Link

Abstract: "America's Bard." Addressed to a general audience, this lecture considers what America meant to Burns and the way in which Burns has been treasured by American writers including Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, and Maya Angelou. Though Burns is rightly regarded as the national bard of Scotland, thanks to his democratic voice, his admiration for the American Revolution, and his impact on American writers, he can also be called "America's Bard."

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Nat Edwards
Nat Edwards, National Library of Scotland.
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Nat Edwards is the Education and Interpretative Services Manager at the National Library of Scotland. He has worked for the past twenty years in museums and archives and was, prior to joining the National Library, Director of Burns National Heritage Park in Alloway, Ayrshire. Edwards has served as a director of the Scottish Museums Council, Chairman of the National Burns Collection and a number of other bodies promoting cultural and literary heritage. With the National Burns Collection, Nat recently organized the exhibition, Zig-Zag: the Paths of Robert Burns. He is the author of Caledonia's Last Stand: in Search of the Lost Scots of Darien (2007).


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Patricia Gray
Patricia Gray, Poetry Center, Library of Congress.
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Patricia Gray heads the Poetry and Literature Center, Library of Congress. Her volume of poems, Rupture, was chosen by the Montserrat Review as one of the best books of poetry for 2005. She has received several artist fellowships for poetry from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the most recent of which was in 2006. Gray designed and coordinates the Poetry at Noon reading series, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this year at the Library of Congress. In 2005, she served on the coordinating committee for "DC Celebrates Whitman: 150 Years of Leaves of Grass."

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Billy Kay
Billy Kay
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Billy Kay Billy Kay is an award-winning writer and broadcaster who has devoted his life to making Scots, at home and abroad, aware of their rich cultural heritage. He is the author of the influential work on the history of the Scots language, Scots: The Mither Tongue. His latest book, The Scottish World: A Journey into the Scottish Diaspora, details the cultural legacy of the Scots in diverse parts of the world. Through his independent production company, Odyssey Productions, he regularly contributes radio documentaries on Scottish cultural history to BBC Radio Scotland. For more information, select this link to go to http://www.billykay.co.uk/. External Link

Abstract: For the Symposium at the Library of Congress, Kay will apply the old Scots saying he heard as a child, “Thaim wi a guid Scots tongue in their heid are fit tae gang ower the warld,” and explore the theme of linguistic and national identity in the Scots-speaking heartlands of Ayrshire and Dumfriesshire, the area both Robert Burns and Billy Kay called home. (As Burns described it, “o aw the airts the wind can blaw, I dearly like the West....")  Billy will illustrate his talk with audio clips from his BBC programmes, letting the American audience hear how the language in which Burns wrote his greatest poetry and songs still thrives as a living language at the core of communities today. He will also place Scots in an American and international context, and examine whether the language will continue as a cherished part of Scottish identity when we come to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of the National Bard.

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Marc Lambert
Marc Lambert, CEO of the Scottish Book Trust.
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Marc Lambert earned a master's degree in History from Edinburgh University. He became a merchant banker, before quickly realizing that literature was far more interesting. He worked for Britain’s leading bookseller, Waterstone and Co., as a main fiction buyer, then for Penguin Books in Italy and the United Kingdom. After four years of writing about and interpreting contemporary art at The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, he joined The Edinburgh International Book Festival, becoming the Assistant Director. From 2002 to the present he has held the position of Chief Executive Officer of the Scottish Book Trust, Scotland’s national agency for the promotion of reading and writing. Lambert is also a Trustee of the Edinburgh City of Literature Trust and an advisor to the master's degree program in creative writing at Napier University. As an editor his work has included two volumes of poems, essays and translations by Alastair Reid, Inside Out and Outside In (2008), an overview of contemporary Scottish writing, Discovering Scottish Literature (2008), Voyage of Intent: Sonnets and Essays from the Scottish Parliament by James Robertson (2005), and The Girl in Red and Other Poems by Vicki Feaver (2003). He reviews regularly for The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday newspapers. For more information see the website for the Scottish Book Trust.External Link

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Ed Miller
Ed Miller
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Ed Miller, has been hailed as "one of the finest singers to come out of the Scottish Folksong Revival" and as "one of Scotland's best singing exports." Originally from Edinburgh, he has for many years been based in Austin, Texas. At the University of Texas, he earned graduate degrees in Folklore and Geography, and has been a radio presenter at KUT for over thirty years. Miller is a frequent performer at concerts, clubs, festivals, Highland games and Burns suppers, and also gives lectures and leads workshops on Scottish folklore. Miller has recorded seven CDs of traditional and contemporary Scottish songs. His latest, Lyrics of Gold, is devoted to songs written or collected by Robert Burns. For more information visit his Songs of Scotland web page. External Link


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Cate Newton
Cate Newton, National Library of Scotland.
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Cate Newton is Director of Collections and Research at the National Library of Scotland. She has degrees from the universities of London and Sheffield, and prior to joining the National Library she worked in Scottish academic libraries for over twenty years. She has particular interests in bringing national library collections to wider audiences, in working collaboratively with national and international collecting institutions, and in developing and promoting traditional and digital library collections.


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Kay Ryan
Kay Ryan
U.S. Poet Laureate. Photo by Christina Koci Hernandez
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Kay Ryan, Poet Laureate of the United States, was born in California in 1945, and grew up in the small towns of the San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave Desert. She received both bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles. Ryan has published several collections of poetry, including The Niagara River (2005); Say Uncle (2000); Elephant Rocks (1996); Flamingo Watching (1994), which was a finalist for both the Lamont Poetry Selection and the Lenore Marshall Prize; Strangely Marked Metal (1985); and Dragon Acts to Dragon Ends (1983). Her poetry has won many awards, including the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize (2004). For more information about Kay Ryan, including a biography, poems, audio, and video, go to the Library of Congress Kay Ryan: Online Resources page.

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Alex Salamond
The Right Honourable Alex Salmond, MP, MSP, First Minister of Scotland.
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The Right Honourable Alex Salmond MP, MSP was born in Linlithgow in 1954, and lives in Strichen, Aberdeenshire, with his wife Moira. He attended Linlithgow Academy before studying at St Andrew's University, where he graduated with a joint honours MA in Economics and History. In 1978, he joined the Government Economic Service as an assistant economist in the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland. In 1980, he joined the Royal Bank of Scotland where he worked for seven years: first as an assistant economist, and then as oil economist and bank economist. He has also been a visiting professor of economics at Strathclyde University. Salmond was first elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for Banff and Buchan in 1987. He was National Convener for the Scottish National Party (SNP) from 1990-2000, and 2004-2007, and has been leader of the party's Westminster MPs since 2001. He was Member of Scottish Parliament (MSP) for Banff and Buchan Constituency from 1999-2001, and has been MSP for the Gordon Constituency since 2007. In the Scottish Parliamentary elections in May 2007, the Scottish National Party became the largest party in Scotland, and thus became the Scottish Government. Alex Salmond was duly elected as First Minister of Scotland.

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Myra Sklarew
Myra Sklarew
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Myra Sklarew is former president of the artist community Yaddo, and professor emerita of literature at American University, where she founded the MFA Program in Creative Writing. Sklarew is the author of three chapbooks and six collections of poetry, most recently Lithuania: New & Selected Poems (1995) and The Witness Trees (2000), as well as a collection of short fiction, Like A Field Riddled by Ants (1987), and a collection of essays, Over the Rooftops of Time (2002). Her poetry has been recorded for the Contemporary Poet's Archives of the Library of Congress. A nonfiction work entitled Holocaust and the Construction of Memory is forthcoming from SUNY Press. Sklarew’s awards include the National Jewish Book Council Award in Poetry, the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award for short stories, the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Award from the Judah Magnes Museum, grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation, and the University Scholar/Teacher Award from American University. She was educated at Tufts University, where she studied biology, at the Cold Spring Harbor Biological Laboratory, where she worked with Salvador Luria and Max Delbruck, and in the writing seminars at the Johns Hopkins University. She began her work at American University in 1970, and her first students included soldiers returning from the Vietnam War.

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Stephen Winick
Stephen Winick, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.
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Stephen Winick is the writer and editor for the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.  He has a master’s degree and a PhD in folklore and folklife from the University of Pennsylvania.  He has taught folklore courses at the University of Pennsylvania and George Mason University, and has published widely on folklore and folk music in both academic and popular publications. His academic publications include articles on British folksongs and ballads, American proverbs, and medieval English literature.  He is the editor, with Kimberly Lau and Peter Tokofsky, of “What Goes Around Comes Around”: The Circulation of Proverbs in Everyday Life.  He has also been a music journalist for many years, covering folk and traditional music and song of Britain, Ireland, Europe and North America, for such publications as Dirty Linen magazine and The All Music Guide.


 

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