Getting lost was one of the common themes shared by the two poets at StAnza’s reading in St Andrews last night. Fife based John Burnside’s poem ‘The Vanishing of my Sister’ recalled a sibling temporarily getting lost and ‘The Lost Husband’ even contemplated the oddness of feeling adrift in one’s own home. Canadian poet Karen Solie evoked the rural landscapes of her native Saskatchewan, where rural depopulation has led to the emptying out of once familiar small towns. She confessed in one poem to wandering through these places using Google Earth, finding the streets ‘denuded of childhood flora’ and wondering ‘would we burn these places rather than see them change or simply burn them?’
This was a rare opportunity to see two prizewinning poets exploring profound questions about identity and displacement with great wit and grace. John Burnside, Professor of Creative Writing at the University of St Andrews, recently won the prestigious Forward Prize for his latest collection Black Cat Bone. Karen Solie won the Griffin Prize in 2010. She is visiting Fife as the inaugural holder of an International Writers Residency, provided by the Barns-Graham Charitable Trust and the School of English at St Andrews. Both poets delighted the audience with new unpublished work and Solie’s stay at Balmungo House, the former home of the late artist, Wilhemina Barns-Graham, was already, she said, influencing her poetry.
StAnza will be working with the Barns-Graham Charitable Trust to provide an all day workshop at Balmungo House during the festival next March. This and other programme details will be available later this month at www.stanzapoetry.org