Archive | March, 2012

In S T E R E O S C O P E

31 Mar

Poem by Karen Doherty inspired by photo by Roman Koblov

One of the installations for StAnza 2012 as part of our theme of The Image and focus on photography was a collaboration with STEREOSCOPE magazine. Created by St Andrews University students, the magazine draws on the photographic history of St Andrews and works with the support of the University’s special collections. For this installation, poets were invited to respond to specific of the images in the magazine and the following poems produced during the project were projected along with the images. The two photographs which prompted most of the poems submitted were by Jeremy Waterfield and Roman Koblov. Here are the poems.


Lavinia Greenlaw wins the Ted Hughes Award

29 Mar

Congratulations to Lavinia Greenlaw who won the Ted Hughes Award for her sound work, Audio Obscura. Lavinia was StAnza’s Poet-in-Residence this year.

Judges Edmund de Waal, Sarah Maguire and Michael Symmons Roberts presented the award, which was founded by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and is run by the Poetry Society.

Taking place at Manchester’s Piccadilly station in July 2011 and at London’s St Pancras International station in September / October 2011, Audio Obscura is a sound work in which the listener enters interior lives and discovers, somewhere between what is heard and what is seen, what cannot be said. Audio Obscura was commissioned and produced by Artangel and Manchester International Festival, and Lavinia collaborated with sound designer Tim Barker to produce the work.

The judges  described Audio Obscura as ‘a groundbreaking work that fully captured the spirit of the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry. The judges felt this was a particularly outstanding year with six stellar entries on the shortlist’.

Nice to note here that two other members of that shortlist were at StAnza: Christopher Reid and Robert Crawford.

Read more about the award here

StAnza out and about

29 Mar

Hugh MacDiarmid's Scotland at St Andrews Bus Station during StAnza 2012

 Thanks to our Creative Scotland ‘One Step Forward’ funding, StAnza certainly stepped out this month around St Andrews and beyond. As well as the poem panel at Leuchars Railway Stations, two poems, ‘Scotland’ by Hugh MacDiarmid and ‘St Andrews’ by Robert Crawford (thanks to permission from Carcanet Press and the Random House Group respectively) have been on show in window panels at the St Andrews Bus Station, our annual Poetry Walk followed a path suggested by the Book of St Andrews, the Poem Pedlar engaged with people all round town and the sun shone wonderfully on our stone carver working in the garden outside the Byre over the glorious festival weekend (which seemed to turn StAnza into a summer festival) where the whispers of this year’s specially commissioned audio  installations added their own soundscape. StAnza is keen to see photographs of people encountering words and text around town during the festival, so do send your own to us at and we’ll be happy to publish some of them on this Blog.

Stone carver John Neilson at StAnza 2012 (photo credit Al Buntin)

Even more mysterious at MUSA

28 Mar

StAnza at MUSA, photo credit Amy Dale/Musa

Some weeks ago our guest blogger Amy Dale from MUSA (the Museum of the University of St Andrews) invited poems responding to some of the objects from the Museum’s collection, and some of the resulting poems are now on show at MUSA, scattered through the cases to encourage visitors to take a good look round to find them all. The Museum can be found at 7a The Scores,St Andrews, the opening hours are presently 12 noon to 4.00pm Thursday to Sunday but once we move into April, their longer summer opening hours begin. And don’t miss checking out the wonderful views out over the sea at the back of the Museum.

Stephanie Green on Day 5: Was it all a dream?

20 Mar

Sunday 18 March

As always during  StAnza , listening to a waterfall of poetry each day, I’ve entered a virtual reality of poetic images and this festival literally – blogging daily.  It’s been fun, though busy, busy.

Also, rushing around taking snaps for this blog and StAnza’s website gallery archives, seeing the world through a camera lens has added a dimension to the festival’s exploration of the Image,  musing on the themes of perception, framing, point of view, focus, the cold eye, the moving eye  and so on,  both in art and in poetry.  Not only the artist/poet’s p.o.v.   but the observer/reader/listener’s and so on. Not just the image but the experience it evokes….

Much to ponder on.  Notes to read through and digest.  Who knows perhaps my own poems will benefit?

The poets, poetry and art installations were the main thing, without whom etc. But being at the festival as a volunteer, has also let me experience first hand,  just how much behind the scenes and front of house hard work goes on. A hundred times’ more work than my little mite.  A daily miracle in fact: a small army of people, many of them volunteers,  pulling together.  But like a good trooper, I must not dispel the magic for the audience. Continue to believe it all happened with the wave of a magic wand, wielded by Fairy Godmother, Eleanor Livingstone.

But thanks to Eleanor and thanks to Annie, for letting me come to the ball.

And since the Image was the theme, I  leave you readers with a series of images from the festival.

More stone carvings by Line Cutter John Neilson (on show in the gardens of  the Preservation Trust Museum, St. A) and  inside the museum, part of the Poem Pedlar’s Pearls’ collection, a last image – a shirt with the perennial subject of most poetry.

James on Day 5: Split Screen, Karen Dunbar, How to Make a Psycho Poetica, Festival Finale

20 Mar


Split Screen Anthology

The Split Screen launch event had 21 poets, the largest number of participants ever on the same StAnza stage. Apart from that gathering of 100 poets, of course, in 2007.

Split Screen is an anthology of new poetry inspired by Sixties and Seventies screen culture. Think Carry On films, Dad’s Army, James Bond, and – of course! – Dr Who. You can read editor Andy Jackson’s account of how the anthology came about here

My personal highlight was a poem in the voice of Yoda (“I, too, an archetype am”). Annie – the festivals’ Media and Marketing Exec -preferred the Clangers’ poem which was performed in the original Clang, much to the delight of a trainee guide dog that had been brought into the audience.

My overall impression of the anthology is that it’s a vibrant and nostalgic tribute to the a culture that made its generation great. Some of the poems presented were of a more thoughtful turn too.

Karen Dunbar Performs Denise Mina’s A Drunk Woman Looks at a Thistle

This poem-play, which was first performed at Oran Mor for their Play, a Pie and Pint series, was one of my favourite items at the festival.

After a stand-up introduction in which she promised to “try and keep you amused between the words as well”, Karen Dunbar donned a pink cowboy hat and unscrewed a bottle of MD 20/20.

The poem, which Karen performs as only she could, is a dramatic monologue about a drunk and wanton “thistle”of Scotland, who captures herself an audience to tell the suppressed role of the wild women within the Scottish identity. Who cares, the poem asks, what treaties politicians sign? It’s what ordinary people think that matters when it comes to defining Scotland as a nation.

Scottish identity is no small topic, and Denise’s poem isn’t afraid to have a go at the issues with a broken bottle of Bucky. She’s critical of the Scotland, which she calls the “village drunk of the world”, but she also knows that Scottish are “no all batter and bagpipes”.

The poem concluded that only a fool would bother to define something so flimsy as an identity anyway.

The performance closed the case on my brewing suspicion that Karen Dunbar is a fantastic comic performer. It’s a witty and intelligent poem performed by a witty and intelligent actress. And as if that’s not enough, the language is beautiful too.

Psycho Poetica

I just can’t get over how brilliant the recipe for Psycho Poetica is.


  • One iconic film,
  • twelve poets,
  • an up-and-coming composer.


  1. Take the iconic film and slice in into twelve equal pieces.
  2. Pair each film slice with a poets and distribute on twelve separate baking trays.
  3. Leave to simmer for a couple of weeks.
  4. Take the resulting poems and stitch them together in a live performance.
  5. Drizzle a score inspired by the original soundtrack over the top to garnish.

The result of applying this recipe to Hitchcock’s Psycho was a thirty-five minute poem cycle inspired by the film, but in sometimes unexpected ways. It was a moving experience, and the poetry was read in suitably dramatic tones by Simon Barraclough, Isobel Dixon and Joe Dunthorne. The score by Oliver Barrett from Bleeding Hearts Narrative really helped contributed to the meditative yet frantic mood.

Exit, Pursued by a Swing-dancing Poet

After a wonderful Poetry Centre Stage finale, the poets, audience members, and the many people who occupied a space somewhere in between headed down to the Byre bar.

To the accompaniment of Scotland’s only Western Swing band, StAnza heads of all shapes were to be seen trying to work out quite how the Lindy Hop and line dancing could best be combined. Thanks are due to the Mending Hearts Trio for playing their music so irresistibly. I should know – I have the bruises to show for it.

General agreement is that this year’s StAnza was bigger, better, and more technologically advanced than ever before. And that the food in the Byre’s restaurant is delicious.

I know for a fact that the organisers have begun preparations for next year already. I can’t give you any sneak previews of what to expect – mainly because they haven’t told me anything – but I can say with confidence that Stanza 2013 will take place 6-10 March 2013 and that it will be, a week of wonderful poets, poems, and poetic inspiration.

Thank you for reading my blog thus far. I’d love to hear your own memories of the festival, so do tweet us links to anything you happen to write.


As the disc jockeys of time put on “Don’t Stop Me Now” and cover their ears in desperation, so today’s blog post, and indeed the StAnza festival blogging for this year’s festival has come to an end.

Never fear! You can view my Storify timeline of the pick of the pics, best links, tweets and boos surrounding StAnza here

I’m available for stalking at www.james-t-harding.comand on Twitter @empowermint.

Photos in this post were taken by John Starr, who also maintains a website at

Stephanie Green: Stereoscopes, and Dual Perspectives

18 Mar

Saturday 17th March, 2012, Day 4

A Poetry Breakfast, complete with coffee and pastries, is a great way to wake up at StAnza.  The Breakfast topic today was ‘Iconic’ with Robert Crawford, Michael Symmons Roberts, Lavinia Greenlaw – all poets and professors as Norman McBeath, the only photographer, commented. They all brilliantly highlighted the various perspectives and aspects of issues surrounding  the image- even straying into the different perspectives of poetry and science, poetry and the religious icon.  In fact, the conversations were so complex and detailed I cannot do more than recommend you try to hear audio clips of it online – when it eventually appears on the StAnza website.

Photography featured  in this discussion and  has throughout the festival.  So I was intrigued to learn that the University also holds one of the largest and most important collections of historic Scottish photography.  St Andrew’s is the hub of Scottish photography.

Apart from the other major photo exhibitions I’ve already blogged about, wavering on the walls of the Byre today were a selection of poems  alongside photos which inspired them : one from the University’s Special Collections archive and others from contemporary student photographers , chosen by ‘Stereoscope,’ the university’s student-produced photography magazine.

A Stereoscope is not something I had encountered before. If you’re into Photography, you may know that it was invented by Sir David Brewster (based at St Andrew’s) to provide the viewer with a dual perspective, creating a 3-D effect, (though wikipedia disputes this- oops do we believe wikip?– conceding he did invent a certain type of stereoscope with prisms  instead of mirrors. Not sure I want to get into this controversy and irritate the powers that be at St A. )  In his day he was more famous for inventing the kaleidescope (though he never made a penny from it as others copied it before he got his patent granted.) No wonder he was noted for his bad temper,  but  Brewster’s correspondence with Wm. Henry Fox Talbot, inventor of the calotype established St Andrew’s as ‘the epicentre of early photography.’

Carson Wos from ‘Stereoscope’ told me the two intriguing photos that got the most responses were Roman Koblov’s  and Jeremy Waterfield’s .  You can see all 5 photos on their magazine blog.

Outside in the grassy courtyard,  chiselling away, was line cutter, John Neilson, working away at a plaque depicting a few lines of verse by Brian Johnstone (former StAnza Director). What had poetry, calligraphy and line cutting on stone in common I wondered?  Beauty of line?  John’s response was that he felt both poet and line cutter valued paring down.  For him, if he was going to spend hours, days, chiselling away, thinking about the poem, it must not be banal or trivial.  Each word must count.  And literally too, he said grinning. The more words, the more it cost!  Hmm, I thought, perhaps many of us wordy, rambling poets should take that to heart.

John has much experience carving lines of poetry. In particular I loved the serpentine words carved on stone slabs on the floor of a church in Bath and also his carving of Carol Ann Duffy’s words at the Much Wenlock Festival, 2010:

‘How your sweetness pervades

My shadowed, busy heart.’

You can see photos of his work on the Letter Exchange website. He is also Editor of their journal ‘Forum’.


Join our live webcast from StAnza today! Plus a host of brilliant events.

18 Mar
More live webcasts from StAnza for today, Sunday 18th March.
Join the live webcast of  the Split-Screen launch at 2.15pm.  Go to:  and click on “Video”. We have  poets reading their poems from this anthology about cult TV and films: that means anything and everything, from Jayne Mansfield to the Clangers! The long list of poets include Andy Jackson, Sheila Templeton, Tim Turnbull and Kevin Cadwallender.
Sunday’s the last day of StAnza  and, as well as our webcasts, there is a series of brilliant events to  look forward to. Simon Barraclough and Gill Andrews are just now taking the stage at the St John’s Undercroft. Tony Walsh, our MC at last night’s brilliant slam, is performing at lunchtime’s Poetry Cafe. Or go see Joe Dunthorne and Nikola Madzirov at the Town Hall Supper Room at 1pm. South African born Isobel Dixon and Palestinian poet Ghayath Almadhoun are the final Border Crossings event for this year at 2.15pm. TV actor Karen Dunbar takes the stage at 3.30pm with Denise Mina’s one-woman show, A Drunk Woman looks at a Thistle. And the intriguing Psycho Poetica – a recreation of Hitchcock’s film in poetry and music.  At 8pm, Kathleen Jamie makes a welcome return to StAnza, with Grace Nichols in our Centre stage reading.


James on Day 4: An Iconic Poetry Café Breakfast, Poetry Digest (Literally) and Rozalie Hirs’ Pulsars

17 Mar

Poetry Café Breakfast: Iconic

In our four Breakfast panellists, Robert Crawford, Norman McBeath, Michael Symmons Roberts and Lavinia Greenlaw, we have three professors of poetry and an internationally exhibited photographer. Who better to discuss the “iconic image”?

Presentations on Russian Orthodox icons – which are meant to be looked through rather than at – the problem of analogy, and the interaction of photography with poetry were made for the packed live audience, webcast, and television screening in the Byre.

A mini-highlight for me, and perhaps for others too young to have been watching TV in 1966, was  the discussion of the Lord Privy Seal technique. “Is this the best way for a poet and a film-maker to collaborate?” the panellists asked:

“Nope,” they answered.

Prompted by Lavinia Greenlaw, the discussion also took a scientific turn. New technologies, like genome mapping, present the poet with a brilliant opportunity: they have never been described before. Genome mapping is an interesting example because the cartographic metaphor is has been engrained within the technology itself.

This idea opened up a wider argument about the relationship of science and poetry. Is science just a source of imagery and subject matter to be plundered, or does the power of scientific metaphor and abstraction have wider repercussion for the way we should communicate through poetry?

Poetry Digest

Most magazine are edible, if you take out the staples first, but few are actually pleasant to eat. Poetry Digest is one such gastronomic experiences –this mealtime magazine comes printed on cupcakes, empire biscuits, and for the healthy amongst us apples, bananas and grapes.

The wonderful Poetry Digest have been providing StAnza heads with poetic nourishment all this week – at the Poetry Breakfasts, and now at the Poets’ Market on Saturday.

Meeting poet Isabel Dixon for the first time and being able to say “I ate one of your poems” was a wonderful experience for me. If ever you get the chance to do this yourself, I recommend you learn from my mistakes and don’t adopt a Cockney accent for the occasion.

Rozalie Hirs: Pulsars

I think the best way to describe Rozalie Hirs work is just to give you an example. You can download the interactive version of “Family Tree” here:

The poem has now been translated into eight languages, and Rozalie gave us a reading in three of them, as well as showing us the interactive exhibit I link to above. The poem is about the stories that “swarm around us”while we’re growing up.

Her ability to work in different languages – and the abundance of translations she has arranged of her poetry – has allowed her to explore the sound of language as well as it’s meaning. In “Bridge of Babel”, for example, she uses quotations from poetry in more than twenty languages.

Meditative soundscapes built from voice recordings swell up around Rozalie as she performs her echo poems. A composer as well as a poet, most of Rozalie’s works couldn’t be categorised as either compositions or poems. They’re somewhere in between – something which I found very stimulating.


As the water cooler of time prepares to flash the low-water-level alert light, so today’s blog post has come to an end.

Never fear! You can follow my Storify timeline of the pick of the pics, best links, tweets and boos surrounding StAnza here: join the StAnza conversation using #StAnza12.

I’m available for stalking at www.james-t-harding.comand on Twitter @empowermint.

More event reviews, plus news of our webcast tomorrow

17 Mar

James on Day 3: Filmpoem Live, Lavinia Greenlaw and Chase Twichell, Split Screen Webcast Tomorrow

I’m getting tired of beginning my blog posts with a comment on how packed the audience of some event or other was. Perhaps I just have a fantastic instinct for choosing the best events to go to? Or perhaps there are simply a ridiculously large number of poetry heads in St Andrews this week?

In either case, please take is as read from now on that whatever events I talk about were sardine-stacked to the rafters.

Filmpoem Live

Alastair Cook’s Filmpoems are an ongoing project pairing readings of great poems with filmic extensions. And what a roster of poets Cook has ensnared in his celluloid web! In this particualr live performance there were poems by Jane McKie, Jo Bell, Jennifer Lynn Williams, Kevin Cadwallender and Colin Will.

Each poet read their poem while Cook’s moving images screened behind them. Landscape-like music was provided live by Luca Nasciuti.

Conflicts between different contributor’s conceptions of what the poem should be – the words, the images and the music all had complimentary but different things to say – were the most interesting part of these performances to me. At the beginning of the event I actually found it hard to take in the three different strands all at once. It is something of a trick to appreciate the overall film entity, like looking at a magic eye picture.

Jane McKie had some interesting things to say about the collaboration process in her introduction to Leper Window, St Mary the Virgin.

Listen to Janie’s introduction about the “serendipity of bring two forms together” here:

And watch the film she’s talking about here:

You can see more of the filmpoems on

Poetry Centre Stage with Chase Twichell and Lavinia Greenlaw

Lavinia – who said she has an unexpected claim to fame in that the Essex Tourist Board has complained about her poetry – presented a set which included subjects such as Arctic personality disorder, silent discos and messenger gods.

Chase’s reading was organised into pairs – two love poems, two environmental poems, two poems about drugs – not unlike the poet pairings StAnza uses for all of the Poetry Centre Stage series.

Chase has had sixteen years of Zen Buddhist teaching, but the first half of the reading avoided Zen topics. Shortly after “Sayonara, Marijuana, Mon Amor”, however, Chase sharpened her Zen pencil with “How Zen Ruins Poets” and got down to some more Buddhist poetry in the second half.

I was particularly taken with this line, and I’ll leave you with it:

“Falling leaf, stop for a moment so I can write on you.”

Split Screen Webcast Tomorrow

“More webcasting?!” I hear you cry.

Well it’s true: due to the success of Saturday morning’s webcast of Poetry Breakfast, the Split Screen launch reading will be webcast live at 2.15pm on Sunday, which is tomorrow as I write. The new anthology by Red Squirrel Press brings the worlds of film/television and poetry together for what promises to be an interesting collision.

Find out more and watch the broadcast here on the Byre Theatre website. We’ll tweet the link soon. 


As the homing pigeon of time grows tired of flirting with the other pigeons in Trafalgar Square and actually decided to fly home, so today’s blog post has come to an end.

Never fear! You can follow my Storify timeline of the pick of the pics, best links, tweets and boos surrounding StAnza here: join the StAnza conversation using #StAnza12.

I’m available for stalking atwww.james-t-harding.comand on Twitter @empowermint.

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