Archive | November, 2013

Emma Jones Reading in St Andrews

28 Nov

Emma Jones will be reading in St Andrews next Thursday. The Australian poet, whose collection ‘The Striped World’ was published by Faber & Faber and won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, read at StAnza in 2011. She’s back in town this year as International Writer in Residence at Balmungo House, and she’ll be reading in the Lawson Room in Kennedy Hall on The Scores at 7pm on 5th December.

The event is arranged by The School of English and Literary Society at St Andrews University in partnership with the Barn-Graham Charitable Trust, and offers an evening of poems and conversation. It’s a free public event which gives another chance to hear this talented young poet.


Two Opportunities for Poets

27 Nov

By Sunday the core programme for StAnza 2014 will be online, so keep watching this space. Meantime we thought we’d pass on details about these two opportunities for poets.

There are just three days left to apply to become a cinnamon poet. The newly redesigned Cinnamon Press Debut Poetry Collection Prize closes at the end of November. It’s an opportunity to win £500 plus a publishing contract for a full length collection. Past winners have gone on to be short-listed for the Forward Prize for best first collection; have won the Scottish Arts Council Best First Book of the Year (Jane McKie, who read at StAnza a couple of years ago) and featured in the Forward Anthology. Runners up in the Cinnamon Press competition will also appear in the expanded, all-poetry anthology.

The competition will be adjudicated by two poets who took part at StAnza last year, Helen Ivory and Martin Figura. Entry is £12 for an initial ten poems (short listed poets will be asked to send further work). Work should not have appeared previously in a full length collection, but may have been published in magazines, online or in pamphlets. Full details here.

And if you are aged 18-30, there’s just one week left for playwrights, poets and novelists in that age group to apply for the £30,000 Sky Academy Arts Scholarships (previously known as the Futures Fund). The final deadline for applications is 5pm on Friday 6 December.

Sky, in association with IdeasTap, is giving away five £30,000 bursaries and mentoring support to talented artists aged 18-30 from the UK and Ireland. Find out more and apply at


Book Prize for Gerry Cambridge Workshop

24 Nov

Gerry Cambridge

Gerry Cambridge

An extra treat is in store for the lucky participants at Gerry Cambridge’s workshop on Tuesday 26th November. One of them will take home a special book prize.
As part of this month’s St Andrews Food and Drink Festival, Gerry will lead a workshop which focuses on using food and drink as inspiration for writing. Those attending will have the additional incentive of a chance of winning a copy of ‘The Forager’s Kitchen’ by Fiona Bird, in which the expert forager gives guidance on how to find food growing wild, in town, countryside and beside the coast. The author currently lives on South Uist, but she studied at the University of St Andrews and met her author husband there, and she has a continuing connection with the town.

There are still some places left at the workshop which runs from 1.00pm-3.00pm in the town library, Church Square, St Andrews. Tickets are £3 and to reserve a place, email

Gerry Cambridge Workshop for StAnza

20 Nov

Our first two events last weekend as part of the St Andrews Food and Drink Festival were everything they promised to be, and there’s one still to go, a workshop on  writing about food and drink on Tuesday 26th November from 1.00pm-3.00pm in the town library, Church Square, South Street, St Andrews.

Food and drink often make memorable appearances in fact, fiction and verse. This workshop with leading poet Gerry Cambridge offers creative wordplay, looking at food and drink as metaphor and exploring attitudes to food and drink via writing. Participants may be encouraged to pen their own responses to edible classics and favourites, some of which will literally be on the table, and could give a whole new meaning to “writing on food”.  

Ticket price £3. To reserve a place, please email or phone 07900 207 429

Conversations with the Dead: John Greening on War Poetry

9 Nov

GreeningToWarPoetsCVR On the Eve of Remembrance Day 2013, and as the UK prepares to commemorate the centenary of the beginning of WW1 in 2014, John Greening talks to StAnza about how he has engaged with war poetry in his new book To the War Poets.

1.  Tell us about the inspiration for To the War Poets

I was with some students on a battlefields trip and from the moment we set off I found myself scribbling poems (luckily I wasn’t in charge of the trip!): they turned out to be verse letters to the war poets. Not all of these ‘epistles’ have ended up in the book —the one I wrote to Owen wasn’t good enough, the one to Gurney was too unwieldy to find a place. In the collection as it appears, the verse letters are set beside other relevant poems. So, Kipling is next to an elegy for an old colonialist, and Edward Thomas beside a group of Welsh pieces. There is some peace as well as war.

 2. There is a kind of time travelling element to your book, with ‘dispatches sent across the decades’.  To what extent do you think poetry has a role to play in helping us to interpret the past.

All poetry is a conversation with the dead anyway. The moment you write the word ‘moon’ in a poem, you cannot but be aware of Sidney, Coleridge, Yeats, Larkin, Shuttle. So, not time travel so much as the anxiety of influence. But there is no better barometer of an age than its poetry and I do believe that there is a prophetic strand to the art, that lets us tune in to what is really happening. I don’t know about my fellow practitioners, but a few too many times I have found myself writing about something before it has happened. In the case of WW1, the poets were also whistle-blowers. So, yes, it helps us interpret the past, but more importantly it’s a guide to the present.

3. Why is poetry written during WW1 of relevance to us today?

Above and beyond the fact that it’s taught at school and so we become familiar with it at an impressionable age, that it is ‘about’ something, that it has ‘human interest’, the period 1914-18 was a stylistic turning point. You see it in the work of someone like Blunden, who wants to be a conventional pastoralist, but whose style is almost torn apart under the pressure of events (his ‘Third Ypres’ for instance); or Rosenberg, and Gurney, their fractured bell-notes. Tectonic plates were shifting across the world. The war poetry was an eruption, part of the Modernist earthquake. Owen is untypical, really, which is perhaps why he’s the most popular.

John Greening (2)

John Greening

4. Your work also includes elements of translated poetry.  How important is it in modern times that we remember war poetry from other countries?  Has this changed the way you have viewed past wars? 

The translations emerged after the sequence of verse letters. The dedicatee of the collection is my old German exchange partner – now a psychoanalyst, with the wonderful name Sandmann —and I remember attending a lesson at his Mainz school in which the Georg Heym poem, ‘Der Krieg’ was discussed. It’s the German ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’, very well known, and astonishingly prescient, since it was composed in 1911. My friend’s father died shortly after our exchange as a result of a wound from the 1939-45 war, which my own father had fought in (my mother endured the London Blitz, which also features in the book). There were other German-speaking poets I wanted to include too, so we have Trakl, Stadler, Stramm. The four are somehow represented by that memorial statue in the German cemetery at Langemark, which I have a poem about. Quite a few of the British WW1 writers were drawn to German culture (Sorley, in particular, and his exact contemporary, Graves), as am I. It was also a way of subverting expectations in readers. We have put the translations first in To the War Poets.

5. Should modern war poetry be taught in schools alongside traditional war poetry?

I don’t know about ‘should be taught’, but I hope young people will discover it. Part of me wants to forbid young people to read any poetry so that they’ll go out and read it. War poetry did not stop appearing after 1918; it’s just that the kind of wars being fought didn’t correspond so uncannily to what was happening in poetry. That trench-warfare took place in rural locations, that those who fought were of a generation who believed in poetry, who had probably been taught it together in the same school, who might have carried a Housman or a Kipling with them – these were conditions that didn’t exist in WW2 or beyond. Indeed, nowadays, war is likely to afflict civilians even more than soldiers. So, yes, read the work of Keith Douglas, Sidney Keyes, Vernon Scannell, Charles Causley, Randall Jarrell, Anthony Hecht, John Gurney, Brian Turner. But also the non-combatants, who write about war from home – Jo Shapcott’s Phrase Book, Michael Symmons Roberts’ Burning Babylon, or David Harsent’s Legion.

 John Greening was born in 1954 and studied at the universities of Swansea, Mannheim and Exeter. He reviews for the TLS and has won several major honours including an Arvon Prize, the Bridport Prize, a Cholmondeley Award, a Hawthornden Fellowship and a Scottish Arts Council Award. He has written twelve poetry collections, studies of British and Irish poets, and the recent Poetry Masterclass (2011).

Find out more at or

War Poetry at the Front Line for Stanza 2014

8 Nov

As part of its Words Under Fire theme, commemorating the centenary of the start of the First World War next year, StAnza today confirmed three acclaimed poets due to take part in StAnza 2014 who have written in response to WW1.

As well as poets, a range of poetry events and exhibitions are planned, highlighting the poetic legacy of WW1 and other wars.

John Greening 1

John Greening

Poets announced today include John Greening, whose forthcoming collection To the War Poets explores what happens when a modern poet sends dispatches across the decades; Jenny Lewis, whose latest book is an account of the Iraq wars of the past 100 years, and Alex Gwyther’s spoken word story of the Christmas truce from 1915.

A major mixed media installation by artist Stephen Raw originally opened in London by Poet Laureate and StAnza 2014 headliner Carol Ann Duffy, will be displayed in the Town Hall in St Andrews.  Was it for this the Clay Grew Tall has been inspired by the poetry of Wilfred Owen and the music of Benjamin Britten in his choral masterpiece, the War Requiem.  The Poet Laureate has described the exhibition as “a timely, truly visionary response to the genius of both Wilfred Owen and Benjamin Britten and to the pity and horror of war.”

Headliner David Constantine will give the StAnza lecture, ‘The Great War at Home and Abroad’, exploring not only war poetry written in English but also some from France and Germany.

StAnza 2014’s popular Past and Present events will also have a war focus, with modern war poets celebrating the work of the past, including Alexander Hutchison on David Jones, author of In Parenthesis.

Speaking ahead of the Remembrance Day weekend, Festival Director Eleanor Livingstone said:

“The war poetry from 1914-18 still has an impact on readers today, and we are delighted to welcome a range of accomplished poets who have engaged with it, some with new collections published in the run up to the WW1 centenary.  Stephen Raw’s exciting installation crosses art forms to interpret musical and poetic visions of war, while our past and present sessions give audiences the opportunity to consider war poetry from a modern perspective.  These poets and artists not only remind us of the legacy of the poetry of the Great War but that war poetry continues to have relevance today.

Surprise, Surprise

6 Nov
Alexander Hutchison

Alexander Hutchison

Surprise, Surprise, StAnza’s second event as part of this year’s St Andrews Food and Drink Festival, is a free event taking place on Saturday 16th November at Zest Juicing and Coffee Bar on South Street. Poet Alexander Hutchison, whose latest collection, Bones & Breath, is due out from Salt Publishing next week, and whose celebration of the birth of Macsween’s vegetarian haggis has become a Scottish poetry legend, will offer a selection of tasty poems served up with haggis stovies and the occasional song. It all kicks off at 6.30pm so come and listen, or bring along your own food and drink poems to read at the open mic slot. StAnza’s own Carly Brown, the Scottish Slam Champion for 2013 who came fourth in this year’s World Slam Championship in Paris, will MC the proceedings.

More information on this event is online at here, and don’t miss our other two events this month, , Tasting Notes: The Poetry of Wine at Luvians Ice Cream Parlour at 6.30pm on Friday 15th November, and our Delicious Poetry Workshop with Gerry Cambridge at 1pm at St Andrews Town Library on Tuesday 26th November.


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