In this 1989 interview in the Off the Page series, the poet and playwright Liz Lochhead (born 1947) discusses her literary career with Jenny Brown.
Lochhead was both in Motherwell, from where the family moved to the nearby village of Newarthill. It was a “very normal, very Scottish, very proddy, posh working-class / lower middle-class life”. Everyone in family read a lot and used the public library as “there wasn’t much else to do”.
Lochhead enrolled at Glasgow School of Art in 1965, and later taught art in schools for eight years. “When you’re drawing, time passes incredibly quickly, you’ve been in another kind of world. The best bits of writing are like that.”
She started writing “poem things” with encouragement from writers such as Alasdair Gray, Edwin
Morgan and George Mackay Brown. Although a feminist, she doesn’t regard herself as a feminist writer. “You don’t have to be some sort of reverse female chauvinist, you just have to express women as truthfully as possible and that’s an affirmative thing in itself.”
Lochhead’s first play, Blood and Ice, was written during a spell as writer-in-residence at Glendon College in Canada; “I’ve rewritten it about six times since, and I think the play just about finally works now.” It was first performed in Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre in 1981. Subsequent plays include Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off and an adaptation into Scots of Molière’s Tartuffe.
Her favourite writers include the Canadians Alice Munro and Margaret Laurence, along with the American, Alison Lurie, “like a modern Jane Austen”. Poetic influences include Edwin Morgan, Louis MacNeice, and the Movement poets.