New exhibition to honour legendary Dundee poet

The life of an inspirational author and teacher will be celebrated in a new exhibition at the University of Dundee.

Jim Stewart, who lost his battle with cancer in 2016, taught Creative Writing at the University and was described by Dundee’s Makar, W.N. Herbert, as ‘one of the most significant poets of the last decade’.

A celebration of his work, including poetry, prose, pictures and personal letters, will open in the Tower Foyer Gallery on Saturday 5 October.

Susan Haigh, co-organiser of the exhibition, said, "It has been a real privilege to pay tribute to Jim through this exhibition.

“He wrote poetry from childhood and went on to become one of Scotland’s finest nature poets. He rarely published his work, however, and often supplemented his income with bouts of window-cleaning and proof-reading, as he describes in letters included in the exhibition.”

Born in 1952, Jim grew up on Dundee’s Lochee Road after surviving a near-fatal bronchial illness in early infancy. He went on to study English at the University of Dundee and developed a deep reverence for nature and music which remained throughout his life.

Having graduated with a first class honours degree in English Literature in 1984, he returned as a lecturer and researcher in 1987, remaining at the University until his death. Regarded as an inspirational teacher and a loyal colleague, he was known for his formidable intellect and love of poetry.

Though modest about his talent in life, he had started to compile a collection of his poetry following his cancer diagnosis. Though he lost his battle with the disease before completing the text, colleagues at the University’s English department completed the volume, entitled THIS, which was released last year.

Central to this new exhibition is a portfolio box designed and created by Marion Archibald at her studio in The Old Printing Works, Thornton. The box contains a hand-painted book of tributes to Jim in the form of poetry and prose. Created by Marion and Jim’s former student Keren Macpherson, the book folds out to five metres in length.

The exhibition also features several of Jim’s poems along with paintings and etchings by Keren and fellow artists Kirstie Behrens, Merran Gunn and Derek Robertson, interpreting and illustrating Jim’s poems in a personal way.

The exhibition runs from 5 October to 14 December and is open from Monday to Friday, 9.30am-7pm, and on Saturdays from 1-5pm. A special event will take place on Friday 11 October, 5-7pm, where readings of Jim’s poetry and harpsichord music by Claire Luxford will be performed. All are welcome.