Detail: Bessie Smith by an Unknown Photographer c. 1920s
© 1925 Getty Images. Frank Driggs Collection/Getty Images

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Jackie Kay is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Newcastle. She won the Guardian Fiction Prize for her novel Trumpet (1998), and a Forward Poetry Prize for her collection of poetry The Adoption Papers (1991) and her most recent collection Darling: New and Selected Poems (2007) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. She was awarded an MBE for services to literature in 2006.

Kay's selection includes:


'A feisty woman who always stood up for herself... She was bisexual and practically an alcoholic - the perfect icon'

Jackie Kay