Archive | March, 2013

StAnza 2014 to be part of Homecoming Scotland

28 Mar

No sooner have we taken down the banners and packed away for this year’s festival than it’s time to start thinking about the next!  And our 2014 festival will be very special indeed.

StAnza, we can now reveal, will be taking part in Homecoming Scotland 2014, a countrywide celebration which the First Minister, Alex Salmond, officially launched  yesterday at Hopetoun House, Edinburgh. With 100 events announced, and more to come it is going to be an action packed calendar. Next year, of course, Scotland will also host both the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup.

StAnza will be held next year from 5-9 March and is making its own Homecoming contributions as part of its festival programme – more will be revealed in the next few months. Suffice to say for now that we will be looking at what the concept of ‘home’ means to poets in Scotland and beyond. One of the festival’s themes will be A Commonwealth of Poetry and there will be a focus on Poetry in Motion, all to celebrate through poetry the Commonwealth Games and Scotland’s cultural connections with the Commonwealth. Follow us on this Blog, on Facebook and Twitter for more developments.

First Minister Alex Salmond is joined by representatives from Homecoming 2014 events

First Minister Alex Salmond is joined by representatives from Homecoming 2014 events/photo VisitScotland

VisitScotland and EventScotland are working in partnership with the Scottish Government to deliver Homecoming 2014 – it will be an opportunity for communities nationally and internationally to explore Scotland and celebrate the very best of Scottish culture. The celebration will cover five themes: active, food and drink, creative, natural and ancestry and among the brand-new events planned are the John Muir Festival in East Lothian to herald the opening of the John Muir coast to coast route (Muir,who hailed from East Lothian, founded America’s National Parks), the Forth Bridges Festival to mark its 50th anniversary, a spectacular Ryder Cup Opening Concert, the Findhorn Bay Arts Festival in Moray, the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry, the first World Sheepdog Trials in Tain and the European Festival of Brass based in Perthshire. 

Find out more about these and other planned events at

Keep up with Homecoming news on Twitter: #homecoming2014


StAnza slam: Kate Palfrey

25 Mar

Since ‘slam papi’ Marc Kelly Smith established it in Chicago in 1986, the poetry slam has revelled in its youth like a teenager in an unmade bed, bright and beautiful and slightly ragged round the edges. Wrestling to combine beautiful words with a disorganised schedule, transcendent flights of metaphor with the obligatory knob joke, and stage fright with stage presence, slam poets are as ballsy and brave now as they have ever been.


Especially at Stanza 2013.  Building on a strong tradition of great atmosphere and a deep pool of talent, this year’s slam was good fun. Stanza regulars such as Robin Cairns, Sally Evans and Colin McGuire (all of whom were finalists) served up with pace and lyricism a smorgasbord of piquant poetry, leaning firmly but not too heavily on that standard of the slam, the tower of metaphor that gets more obnoxious and precarious as the lines mount up. Tracey S Rosenberg and Harry Giles, familiar and treasured voices here in St Andrews, similarly lived up to reputation, with more daring and perhaps more refined work. that didn’t quite score the points from the “Darwinian death match” judges ( – a trio of young men laconic, acerbic, witty, gleeful).


MC Luke Wright (back), with the judges (l-r), Luke Kennard, Tsead Bruinja and Jon Ramsay 

It was, I think, the St Andrews’ home-grown Inklight delegates who stole the show. Unpolished but powerful, a little inexperienced, but with a lot of guts, Youkang Jun, Trevor Wallace and Harshad Sam had home-turf advantage and a bevy of supporters. Winner Carly Brown, current Inklight president, has poise, lyricism, passion and humour  – delivered with a balance and grace that we see in modern giants like Shane Koyczan, current darling of the TED talks phenomenon. Carly and her megawatt-smile-burning-gaze-and-blazing-verse combo will go far.


And the winner is…

All this was MC’d with youthful vigour and consummate style by Luke Wright, “the best young performance poet around” (The Observer). Intelligent, with tried-and-tested rhythm and the pace we expect from an experienced performer, Wright spearheaded the evening – a figurehead (his hairstyle is something of a statement) of panache. We enjoyed his dulcet Essex tones and the Anglo-centric humour of pieces like ‘Nigel Farridge’, particularly as a foil to the majority Scots and American participants.

So thank you, slammers, for having the guts and the grammar to give us a riotous evening. Keep rhyming, keep the rhythm, keep the passion.

Kate Palfrey is a member of StAnza’s organising team and she had the tricky job of being the Scorekeeper at the Slam.

Photos by Chris Scott

Capture the immediacy: visual minuting at StAnza

18 Mar

There was an extra aspect to StAnza’s Poetry Breakfast, in keeping with the Designs on Poetry theme. We invited photographer, artist and video poem maker Ariadne Radi Cor  to act as a visual minuter. Ariadne created her beautiful and informative ‘minutes’ of the discussions, while they were happening.


and the results  went on display in the Supper Room at the Town Hall during the rest of the festival.  This one was made during the Poetry Breakfast on eco poetry and features sketches of the participants, Andrew Forster, David Borthwick, Mandy Haggith and Carry Akroyd and some of the points they made about nature, trees, landscape and poetry.


Ariadne also makes collages and this set of minutes features a little 3 -dimensional notetaking too:

Photographs by Chris Scott 

You can find out more about Ariadne’s work at

Poetry fairy cakes at StAnza (or try a biscuit…)

15 Mar

It’s become almost expected that we make afternoon tea a poetic experience. We always distribute our coasters and the delightful sma buiks, from Poems for All in San Francisco, in participating local cafes. Last year’s Poetry Digest’s poem cum Iced Double Biscuits were supremely popular and led to the age-old question from festival goers, ‘will there be no more cakes’? This year we just had to have similar, toothsome variations on theme of edible  poetry.

Literary Paparazzo Chris Scott caught up Sally Crabtree, our Poetry Postie,  as she did the rounds delivering delicious fairy cakes as poems. She topped the butterfly winged cakes with tiny scrolls, as you can see in the close-up below.


Sally (in pink wig and Postie hat) delivers some poem-cakes)/Chris Scott

Sally (in pink wig and Postie hat) delivers some poem-cakes)/Chris Scott

And if you were feeling creative, it was possible to make an iced poem-biscuit: _MG_1881

Unmapped; Welsh poetry: Stephanie Green

13 Mar
Anna King, Rebecca Sharp

Anna King and Rebecca Sharp

For my last blog at StAnza, meditating on poetry inspired by landscape/art or vice versa, I went along to the exhibition, ‘Unmapped’ , also about the marginal.  A beautiful collaboration of paintings by Anna King and poems by Rebecca Sharp, it is also available in book form.  Paintings and poems are a conversation about places rarely noticed, the derelict,  the leaking boundaries between past and present, absence and longing.  ‘I love to explore empty feral places’ says Anna King, ‘where nature is slowly and relentlessly taking the land back.’

I loved how painter and poet echo each other:  brush or maybe palette knife strokes are clearly visible in almost half-finished paintings, where the background shows through, just as in  the poems the past haunts the present.   Rebecca’s vocabulary echoes the painter’s  techniques: ‘gouging’,  ‘scratched’, ‘seeping through’ and ‘Ink from a stairwell/bleeds into a boy’.

This is poetry as psychogeography, strangely evocative when they hint at so much absence: ‘We were always somewhere else,/waiting to appear.’    Anna Crowe calls these ‘restless, shifting poems’  and you can read the full review and see more poems and pictures through the project website, and press Book for pictures, and Work for poems.


Welsh poetry, past and present

It was sound career sense of Dylan (pron. Dullan, so you can show off you know this) Thomas to die a bohemian death in New York, said Robert Minhinnick  at his Past & Present talk.  It would not have had the same myth-making impact if he’d died in Swansea Hospital after a bender in a local pub.  Recent research indicates that Dylan did not die so much of drink, as of a diabetic attack.

It is Dylan’s centenary next year so ‘Be afraid. Be very afraid’ warned Minhinnick. Personally, I can’t wait.

Lynette Roberts is not so well-known, of course. Born in Argentina, but moving to Wales on marriage, she was writing in the 30’s and 40’s and admired by T.S. Eliot as a fellow modernist. Sadly Roberts suffered from schizophrenia and wrote no more after the 50’s – perhaps explaining the diminishing of her reputation.  Like Roberts, Zoë Skoulding‘s own poetry explores language as  ‘soundings’, or  ‘noise’ so her talk revealed her own interests too.


Zoë Skoulding/photo Stephanie Green

Deryn Rees-Jones, short-listed for the T.S. Eliot prize in 2012, gave a reading of her tour de force ‘Dog Woman’ a sequence inspired by Paula Rego’s paintings which were a highlight of the festival

Other highlights were Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch’s Antarctic poems and Eurig Salisbury, Welsh Children’s Laureate. ‘I like eggs for breakfast, especially omelettes,’ he said.  He tells this to the kids he visits at school  – it’s important they eat well (as well as enjoy poems).

These readings were a great note to end the festival on.  Diolch yn fawr for having me.

Tipyn Bach of Welsh:

Hwyl Fawr (pron Hoo-ill vow-r)  Goodbye.  (Lit . Have great fun.)  There is no Goodbye in Welsh – appropriate because we hope we’ll meet again at StAnza 2014.

My life as a StAnza volunteer: Lyndsey Fineran

12 Mar

156477_10152586225355244_455849278_nAs a StAnza newbie, and a relative newbie to St Andrews itself, I was unsure what to expect when I signed up to volunteer at this year’s festival. Having worked at similar events in the past, I’ve found that there is often a fair amount of hierarchy involved: newcomers must come in at ground level and ‘earn their stripes’ over successive years in order to feel a real part of the team. Nothing could be further from the truth in StAnza’s case. Right from the get-go, I’ve felt welcomed, valued and had access to lots of great experiences.

My official role is as part of the Participant Liaison team. Made up of post-graduate and returning students, we ensure that the poets and performers feel welcome and looked after during their short time in our town. It is a really fun and varied role, one which can see you doing anything from escorting performers to their venues, fetching them a much-needed coffee (or beer, depending on how long a day it’s been…), overseeing book signings and sound checks or even just chatting over a drink as they unwind from a performance. I, for one, have experienced no diva-esque requests and each performer has seemed appreciative of the work we do.

Back in January when I first spoke with Eleanor Livingstone about getting involved with this year’s festival, I expressed my interest in helping out with some press work. I had done a fair amount on the student journalism scene during my undergraduate years and I was keen to build on this experience in a professional context. I was first put in touch with  Sophie Patterson and Morag Wells, two fellow St Andrews students who’ve been part of the StAnza family for a number of years and together we devised a range of publicity and marketing ideas to help increase advertising outreach on the student scene: creating university-focused social media campaigns, plugging the festival in the key student media outlets and making connections with other universities’ literary societies.


During the festival itself, meanwhile, I’ve been equipped with an all-singing, all-dancing recording device in order to gather material for some podcasts. My last few days were spent brandishing my mike at anyone willing to talk to me (or too polite to say no to me.) Whether that’s interviewing a headlining poet, being given a private tour of exhibition by its artist or just accosting an unsuspecting audience member over their soup, I’ve found no shortage of inspiring people to speak with. That’s the wonderful thing about StAnza: in any nook or cranny, whether performer or visitor, you’re sure to find an erudite and passionate person whose story you’d be happy to listen to.

Centre photo by Chris Scott

Originally from the North-East, Lyndsey (23) graduated from Durham University in 2011 with an English degree and after spending a year working and travelling, came to St Andrews to study for an MLitt in Modern and Contemporary Literature and Culture. 

 StAnza’s podcasts, including interviews and extracts from readings, will be made available in the next few weeks and months at

Snapshots of StAnza: behind the scenes

12 Mar

We take a peek behind the scenes at StAnza, when musicians were tuning up, artists were installing their work – from chandeliers to poetry dresses – and stages were set up.

See more photos on the blog this week and at

Photographs by Chris Scott

St Andrews Buchanan Quartet, tuning up at StAnza's launch

St Andrews Buchanan Quartet, tuning up at StAnza’s launch

Ian Blyth and Eleanor Livingstone

Ian Blyth and Eleanor Livingstone

Anja Hertenberger altering one of the lace sensor dresses
Anja Hertenberger altering one of the lace sensor dresses

Lucilla Sim assembles the ticket chandelier

Lucilla Sim assembles the ticket chandelier

Anja gets the dress ready to show

Anja gets the dress ready to show


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