Conn was born in Glasgow but moved to Kilmarnock in 1942 when his father,
the Revd Dr John Conn, was called to be minister of St Marnock's Church
in the town. The family had Ayrshire roots, having relatives who farmed
on Craigie Hill. He entered the Primary Department of Kilmarnock Academy
and enrolled in the secondary school in 1948, leaving after S6 in 1954.
His school record, still preserved in Kilmarnock Academy, shows that
he followed an academic course, taking Highers in English, History,
Latin, French and Biology. In his senior years he was involved in producing
the school magazine, Goldberry.
After attending the University of Glasgow, he did National Service in the
RAF. He then became a producer with BBC Radio and was appointed Senior
Drama Producer for BBC Radio Scotland in 1977 where he was able to encourage
many younger writers. He left the BBC in 1992.
For many years he has lived in Edinburgh. And from 2002 to 2005 he was the capital's first official Makar, or poet laureate. Since his first poetry collection, Thunder in
the Air (1967), Conn has published a further ten collections. His
early poems drew upon his Ayrshire experience, territory he returned
to with In the Blood (1995). His latest collections are Stolen Light (1999), Ghosts at Cockcrow (2005) and The Loving-Cup (2007); and (as editor) 100 Favourite Scottish Poems and 100 Favourite Scottish Love Poems. He is also
a distinguished playwright, his most widely-acclaimed plays being The
Burning, first performed in 1971, and Herman, first produced in 1981.
Dunn has written that Conn has an 'unnerving sense of the fragility
of life' (Douglas Dunn, Oxford Companion to 20th Century Poetry). His
early poems set in the countryside near Kilmarnock deal with the harsh
realities of farming. In the Blood has several poems such as 'Castles'
and 'School Motto', which deal with the period of his life when he was
a pupil at Kilmarnock Academy:
to her ample bosom
handing us over
with a rod of iron.
breakdowns and a suicide.
went into mourning, when
son got only
we others had gone
(some of us)
to do justly,
Motto' In the Blood (1995) © Stewart Conn
Academy, he makes it clear, is 'In the Blood'. Conn's humane vision
and understated lyricism has established him as a significant contemporary
Stewart Conn Stolen Light Ghosts at Cockcrow The Loving-cup
In The Blood Distances Ed. by Stewart Conn Ed. by Stewart Conn
Stewart Conn's books are available at Amazon