Quick & Quirky Questions with Kay Ritchie

In this edition of our QQQs we are joined by Kay Ritchie who took part in the Living Our Dying competition and her poem was highly commended by the judges.

Kay’s life might be that of the steel ball in a pinball machine, sent in different directions with every strike. She grew up in Glasgow and Edinburgh, lived in London, Spain and Portugal, and worked as a freelance photographer and radio producer.

She took part in the Clydebuilt programme in 2014 and she’s been published in numerous anthologies, chap books and magazines. She produced a hand-made book, 10 poems and 4 photographs – ‘I’ve been eating Iberia’ – and her work has appeared in a Historic Scotland film, an installation in Pollock Country Park and the Burns’ windows in Dumfries, as well as a couple of archives.

Kay came 3rd in the Federation of Writers (Scotland) poetry competition 2013, was longlisted for York Literature Festival Poetry competition 2014 and shortlisted for the CRM Society’s ‘Letters to Mackintosh’ competition 2020.

She has performed at various events, including Aye Write, Billion Women Rising, Women’s Aid 40th Anniversary, 100 Poets read 100 Poems, Scottish Refugee Week, the Edinburgh Fringe and the Inverness Film Festival.

Kay likes to dance and paint and walks everywhere. In the summer of 2019, she walked the Portuguese coastal Camino from Porto to Santiago de Compostela. In 2023 she hopes to walk the Hebridean Way across 10 Scottish islands.

Tell us 4 important facts about yourself:

  1. I spent most of my life reinventing my life, from being the worst waitress in the world to hairdresser, secretary, photographer, teacher of English and radio producer. Now all I want to do is to pick up a pencil and write. 
  2. When young I was taken for French. When living in Portugal they thought I was Spanish. When I worked in Spain, they thought I was Brazilian. Confused at who I really was, only when I lived in London did I become Scottish once more, known as Jock.
  3. People think I’m sociable but like Greta Garbo or Philip Larkin I love to be alone.
  4. I wanted 6 children. In the end I had none. But I have two wonderful stepsons without ever having had to ‘push’.

What is your favourite age that you’ve been so far in life, and why?

They say there are four ages of woman. Having safely arrived at the final one I look back at childhood, youth and middle age and recognise magic and pain at every stage – the hopes, disappointments, loves, friendships, adventures, health issues, losses. But I find the ‘here and now’ very wonderful and very comforting. Dear friends around me and lots of memories, bitter and sweet, to write about. 

Who is your favourite fictional character or famous person over 60?

Laurie Anderson – I had the privilege of seeing her perform Jack Kerouac’s Haikus at St Mark’s Church, New York, in 2003. Then, after the loss of my partner and mother, her beautiful, thoughtful film Heart of a Dog showed me that ‘the purpose of death is the release of love’.  

During lockdown I attended her Norton Lectures at Harvard University, on Zoom, and was blown away by her inspirational inventiveness.

Now in her 70s, she continues to be creative, experimental and excited about everything and everyone and takes every opportunity to collaborate with the most unexpected people and projects.

You are alone in your house (no pets). You have three minutes to get out before the house collapses and burns to the ground. What one possession would you grab and take with you?

Probably my polka dot dressing gown (which was my mother’s) as I sleep naked and don’t want to shock the fire brigade or my neighbours.

What’s your favourite creative pastime?

Breathing. Whether meditating, walking, dancing, drawing, doing the housework, reading or writing I try to breathe deeply, in and out, in and out.

Tell us something about yourself that’s surprising or unexpected.  

In 1985, while working as a freelance photographer for a Channel 4 series called Voices, I spent time with Salman Rushdie, in the Berlin home of Gunther Grass. I have been shocked and saddened at his recent attack and the current threat to free speech.

If you’re inspired by Kay and her highly commended competition entry, details of our Annual Poetry Competition are below. Good luck!

Annual Poetry Competition

Theme: ‘The Environment’
Deadline: 31st October 2022 – Entries now closed

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