Archive | April, 2011

Poetry for May

30 Apr

August Kleinzahler’s reading for StAnza is approaching fast, less than two weeks now, and even before that, as part of a week of activities in St Andrews, two poetry events are on offer, both on Tuesday 3rd May. At 5.30pm in the Garden Seminar Room at the School of English on The Scores, Tom Jones will deliver a workshop on “What makes poetic language poetic”.  Then at 7.30pm in the King James Library in St Mary’s Quad off South Street, Douglas Dunn, Chris Jones and Don Paterson are giving a poetry reading.

Wedding vows and verses

28 Apr

Poetry has, not surprisingly, played its part in the run-up to the Royal Wedding tomorrow. Last Saturday, the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, presented a collection of ‘wedding vows’, published here in the Guardian, by, among others, Scotland’s new Makar, Liz Lochhead, Jackie Kay, Michael Longley and Wendy Cope.  Many are names who have appeared at StAnza.  We were really delighted to see among them, a new poem by Rachael Boast, who has worked for the festival as a volunteer for several years, and whose first poetry collection, Sidereal, is being published next month by Picador. Congratulations to her.

Analogue -v- DNA?

26 Apr

StAnza Showcase, Friday 18 March 2011

Sunday’s Observer included poetry in the news section twice. An article about analogue versus digital  in the arts featured poet Claire Askew – who took part in one of this year’s StAnza showcase events – talking about her preference for typewriters in a laptop age.  Elsewhere in Sunday’s paper , we learn that a Canadian poet, Christian Bők, is translating a short verse into DNA, using a ‘chemical alphabet’. Most likely it was a happy coincidence  that these polar extreme approaches to science and technology as tools for poetry featured in the same edition of a newspaper, though it would be nice to think that it was by design.

Poetry while the sun shines …

22 Apr
While the sun has been shining, April has been a busy month for poetry. Last weekend saw a Calderwood Press triple launch at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh on Saturday evening – new publications from Geoff Cooper, Eddie Gibbons and Lyn Moir. Then on Sunday evening at Rob Mackenzie’s regular Poetry at the Store event, Matthew Stewart was over from Spain to launch his first chapbook collection from HappenStance.


In St Andrews On the Rocks has been taking place this week, a festival organised by local students which will feature the first performance of Robinson, Brian Johnstone’s poem sequence about American poet Weldon Kees with new music composed by Richard Ingham. That’s at the Byre Theatre on Saturday 23rd April at 7.00pm.

James McGonigal at StAnza 2011

Meantime the shortlists have been announced for the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry , and we’re delighted to see Mariscat Press featuring in the best publisher category and James McGonigal shortlisted for his pamphlet Cloud Pibroch.  Jim took part in the Saturday In Conversation  at StAnza last month discussing Beyond the Last Dragon, his biography of Edwin Morgan. That’s double good news for Jim – Beyond the Last Dragon is in the running for the Scottish Book of the Year awards, for which the long list was also announced this week. Stuart Kelly, who took part in a StAnza Past & Present event on Sir Walter Scott last month is also on the non-fiction list for his book Scott-land. Poets are well represented this year, with two more on the non-fiction list, Jackie Kay and Andrew Greig.

Kei Miller, Poet in Residence at StAnza 2010

The poetry long list (of four) includes last year’s Poet in Residence at StAnza, Kei Miller  for his book A Light Song of Light, as well as Eddie Gibbons  who also took part at StAnza last year and Stewart Conn , who was a participant at StAnza 2011.  Along with Robin Robinson they are in the running for the Poetry Book of the Year, as well as for the £5,000 Book of the Year award.  Good luck to them.

Finally, there’s also poetry in the First Book category this year, Maggie Rabatski’s first pamphlet, Down from the Dance.

Edwin Morgan Poetry Competition

22 Apr
Vicki Feaver at StAnza 2010

The fourth Edwin Morgan International Poetry Competition is currently accepting entries at  Prize money totalling £6,600 is offered and this year’s judges are Vicki Feaver, who read at StAnza 2010, and Kona McPhee who took part in this year’s festival last month. The closing date is June 10th, 2011 and the prize giving at the Edinburgh International Book Festival is scheduled for 17th August.

Kona McPhee at StAnza 2011

StAnza Special Event: August Kleinzahler, 13 May 2011

20 Apr

One of the highlights of StAnza 2008 was the energetic presence of  August Kleinzahler (left), the New Jersey-born, Beat-influenced poet.  His volume of new and selected poems Sleeping It Off in Rapid City had just been published by Faber & Faber and Kleinzahler’s reputation in the UK had, by then, gone beyond the pages of the London Review of Books (where he had been published regularly through the Nineties) to reach an appreciative international, audience. Kleinzahler’s verbal energy and wild humour, was accompanied by sharp observation and sometimes controversial opinions – he enlivened one StAnza Discussion panel in particular with his provocative contributions. And his centre stage reading to a packed house at the Byre Theatre was electric.

StAnza is delighted to welcome Kleinzahler back to St Andrews on 13 May. As well as treating us to a reading in that inimitable, performative style, he’ll also be In Conversation with fellow poet Alexander Hutchison. Born and brought up in Fort Lee, a tough gangster neighbourhood in New Jersey, Kleinzahler’s early life combined the restless lifestyle of the Beats – travelling across the states doing odd jobs – with a period studying under poets Basil Bunting and Thom Gunn. Since 1978 he has published ten collections of poetry.

The slow but steady rise of his reputation was galvanized with the publication of The Strange Hours Travellers Keep (Faber, 2004), which won the International Griffin Prize – listen here to August reading a poem from the collection.  Critics call him a ‘pugilist poet’, but as this essay from the Poetry Foundation, points out, ‘his poetry’s gruff language and fondness for off-color subject matter doesn’t overshadow his formal control and innovation…and he is highly praised for his mastery of vocabulary, syntax and line.’

Kleinzahler’s prose includes a memoir about his childhood, Cutty, One Rock: Low Characters and Strange Places, Gently Explained (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004) and ‘Music I-LXXIV’ (Pressed Wafer, 2009), a collection of his music journalism. He writes a music column for the San Diego Reader and subjects range from jazz to country and classical – with witty diversions via Liberace and Tina Turner.

Tickets for the August Kleinzahler reading will be available from The Byre Theatre Box Office, Abbey Street, St Andrews, 01334 475000; email or online at

The event is being held in association with the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts and Faber & Faber.

More Poetry from the King James Bible

16 Apr

Poetry Breakfast (photo by Long Ngnyen)

Last month one of our popular Poetry Breakfast  panel discussions considered the poetry of the King James version of the Bible which celebrates its 400th anniversary this year. As was mentioned at the festival event, Fife has a particular connection with the King James Bible dating back to 1601, and but for a twist in history St Andrews might have featured in that. In May that year the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland had to relocate because of an outbreak of plague in Edinburgh. They were due to meet in St Andrews but King James VI of Scotland was staying at Rossend Castle near Burntisland and he summoned the Assembly to meet him at the Church there as being more convenient for him.

It was at that meeting, with King James in attendance, that the idea was mooted to commission a new translation of the Bible which was published ten years later in 1611 and came to be known as the King James Bible. Burntisland Parish Church is sometimes now referred to as the Kirk of the Bible.

At our StAnza event our panelists read various favourite passages from the Bible and now another Fife Church have arranged for the whole of the Bible – 1,189 chapters and more than 31,000 verses –  to be read from beginning to end in a marathon session, the first time such a thing has been attempted in Scotland. They began reading earlier this week in Largo Newburn Church in Upper Largo and will continue on Monday (18th April) at Largo St David’s Church in Lower Largo reading from 7.00 am each day until late in the evening, and for several days next week.   

Poetry Breakfast, StAnza 2011 (photo Long Ngnyen)

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