Archive | February, 2014

Deadline approaching for Paul Muldoon Masterclass

15 Feb

Paul MuldoonEach year the StAnza Masterclass is a festival highlight for many, and offers a wonderful chance for poets to have a leading poet comment on their work. It is also a chance for audiences to hear developing poets at an early stage in their careers, and to hear valuable advice on writing and editing poems. Many poets whose work has featured in past StAnza Masterclasses have gone on to later success with their poetry.

This year’s Masterclass will be taken by acclaimed Irish American poet Paul Muldoon, Professor at Princeton University and Poetry Editor for The New Yorker. The Masterclass is on Sunday 9th March at 11.15am, and several poems will be selected by Paul Muldoon for discussion from those submitted. If you would like your poems to be considered, you have until tomorrow, Sunday 16 February to submit. Full details are on the event page on our website at Good luck!

A Common Wealth of Artefacts.

14 Feb

One of our collaborations this year with MUSA connects with our 2014 theme of A Common Wealth of Poetry. When we learned that MUSA (the Museum of the University of St Andrews) had a collection of fascinating artefacts from a range of Commonwealth countries, we set out to find poets willing to provide a short poem in response to each of these. The first to agree, and to provide a poem, was Chris Gilpin from Vancouver, Canada. The artefact to which is is responding is now on show at MUSA in St Andrews and he has provided a sound file of his poem to accompany this. You can listen to the poem at MUSA, while admiring the item to which it responds, or listen online at Other artefacts which feature in the collaboration come from Tonga, Zambia and India. Images of the artefacts and all the poems responding to them will be on show as part of A Common Wealth of Artefacts, a digital installation at StAnza in March.

The Shepherd’s Farewell: John Greening on Edmund Blunden

12 Feb

In January the Carcanet Blog ( posted an article on Edmund Blunden by John Greening, who will be appearing at StAnza 2014 as part of our Words Under Fire theme responding to the WW1 centenary. The article is reproduced here with their permission.

Book cover from Carcanet Press

Book cover from Carcanet Press

On 20 January it will be forty years since Edmund Blunden died in the Suffolk village of Long Melford. At the time, although Undertones of War was still popular, and the man was widely loved (a Festschrift for his 65th birthday had included a contribution from the Prime Minister), there did not seem to be much future for his poems.

Here was a war poetry that had never quite left Pound’s ‘dim land of peace’. It was comfortable with syntactical inversion, ‘poetic’ diction, literary allusion. It described nature. Blunden wrote of shepherds as others might mention bus conductors. He assumed readers knew the difference between an ash and an elm, could recognise a coppice, had heard of a hame, a garth. 1974 was the year of High Windows. Traditional pastoral was now either Larkin’s ‘I just think it will happen, soon’ or Ted Hughes’s ice-cream guzzling Crow. In fact, Hughes admired Blunden; and Larkin had just given him prominence in his Oxford anthology. But the fashion now was for an elevated colloquialism (1974 also saw Carol Ann Duffy’s début) and Blunden sounded like ‘one of the crew/That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were’, an echo from the world war before last.

Even in 1914, when the Christ’s Hospital schoolboy’s first book was privately printed, the work might have struck readers as old-fashioned. Of course, he would not be the first Edmund to have sounded quaint to his peers: for a poet’s voice to be heard beyond his or her century, there are less superficial requirements, and even as we catch notes from Edward Young or William Collins, something radically modern flickers beneath the surface of Blunden. Nor was he oblivious to Modernism; when he was given a first edition of Ulysses, he found himself impressed and influenced by it. His enthusiasm for the fractured bell-notes of Ivor Gurney (not to mention his championing of John Clare) reminds us that if he was ‘out of key with his time’, it was because he was ahead of it.

Second Lieutenant Blunden’s poetry was, however, traditional enough to please his Colonel in the Royal Sussex Regiment, who took young ‘Rabbit’ aside from the trenches in 1916 to congratulate him on a review in the Times Literary Supplement. And it is the poet’s experience of war—unspoken sometimes, perhaps even unconscious, but seldom absent—that is the preservative in his poems. There is that famous ‘parapet’ in ‘The Midnight Skaters’, or his pike (since swallowed, alas, by Ted Hughes’s), lurking in a ‘sandbank’ HQ ‘with stony gorgon eyes’. Even what appears the most innocuous piece of pastoral turns to allegory. ‘The Barn’ tells of a curse on an apparently prosperous farm, and features a hail-storm that sounds like an artillery attack. The labourer who experiences ‘the hideous flash’ in ‘The Scythe Struck by Lightning’ might well have been standing near Thiepval.

Of the familiar war poets, Owen and Sassoon did not need to be ‘concerned with poetry’, emerging as they did from nineteenth-century tradition. Rosenberg’s modernist aesthetic might be thought more challenging, yet his poems carry in their lineation clear instructions on how they should be read. Edward Thomas, too, was self-evidently ‘different’, and it did not require much readjustment to interpret his plain style as a new way of expressing an established melancholy. It has taken longer to come to terms with Ivor Gurney, but he too has found a readership. Now, a hundred years after that first publication, four decades since his old runner from Passchendaele threw a wreath of poppies on to his coffin, we need to find a better way of reading Edmund Blunden. Perhaps someone should stand up (as happened for Robert Frost) and tell us he is not a complacent pastoralist; he is terrifying.

John Greening’s recent Oxford Poets collection To the War Poets includes a verse letter to Edmund Blunden. He is currently editing a new edition of Undertones of War for OUP.

Deadline for Paul Muldoon Masterclass

12 Feb

Entries have been coming in for this year’s Masterclass at StAnza with Paul Muldoon. There are now just five days left to submit with the deadline of Sunday 16th February fast approaching. If you would like Paul Muldoon’s feedback on your work, to be in with a chance you need to submit this week. Full details are online at

StAnza under threat from proposed budget cuts

9 Feb

These are difficult financial times for everyone, and Fife Council meet this week on 13th February to make hard decisions on proposed budget cuts for the next few years.

StAnza has always been very grateful to Fife Council for their support, which has helped the festival to deliver successful festivals each year. However this week our councillors will be voting on proposals which contain very bad news for StAnza and other Fife cultural festivals for 2015 beyond. It is proposed that the Strategic Events fund from which we receive money should be significantly cut. This doesn’t affect this year’s festivals, but it would affect festivals in further years.

If the proposed cuts are approved by the council this week, StAnza has been told that it may receive no funding from Fife Council in 2015.

We all understand that cuts are never welcome, and that these are not easy decisions for the councillors. However the cuts proposed to the Strategic Events Investment Fund will only provide a tiny saving for the council’s whole budget cuts, about a half of one percent, but if approved this tiny cut will have huge impact for StAnza and other festivals in Fife, not just because of the reduction in money from Fife Council, but because of the impact of this on grants we receive from other funders.

As well as the many cultural and educational benefits which StAnza provides, like other cultural festivals StAnza has a substantial economic impact in Fife, which positive economic impact is also under threat from the proposed cuts. It is estimated that every £1 contributed by Fife Council to cultural festivals generates spending of £36 across Fife.

If you live in Fife and think the proposed cuts to the Strategic Events Investment Fund would be a bad thing, please let your own councillor know. If you do not know who your councillor is, you can find out via your postcode here:

More detailed information about the proposed cuts can be found at

The Byre open again!

9 Feb

ByreThe Byre Theatre is open this weekend for the Fife Jazz Festival, but it’s also open again as a public space with the cafe restaurant and bar back up and running – and serving great food. It was great to see it living again yesterday and let’s keep breathing life into it. The cafe restaurant will be open to the public from 12.30pm today. Good on those behind getting it open and everyone at StAnza is cheering them on – let them see they have everyone’s support. The sun is shining so what more reason to get out and about in St Andrews. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see people today standing three deep waiting to get served in the Byre …. Yesterday’s lunchtime carrot and lentil soup is recommended!


8 Feb

Are you interested in using words creatively to promote health and wellbeing? If you are based in Fife or Dundee join Lapidus Scotland in St Andrews on Friday 21 March and make connections with like-minded professionals working in a range of different settings. The day is aimed at professionals working in Fife and Dundee including those with a background in health, libraries, creative writing, storytelling, education, community arts, countryside parks, nature-based education etc. Find out about work using creative words for wellbeing and take part in a workshop around the theme of place with writers Margot Henderson and Maureen Sangster as part of a new project ‘Writing Place’ in association with the University of St Andrews and the Royal Society of Edinburgh Young Academy of Scotland, and supported by the Scottish Book Trust Live Literature Fund. If you’re interested but can’t attend, please do get in touch and register interest so thet can keep you informed of future developments. This free event takes place from 12.30pm to 4.30pm on Friday 21 March at the School of English, University of St Andrews, The Scores, St Andrews KY16 9AL. The deadline for booking a place is Friday 14 March. Lunch and refreshments are included and they ask anyone who might have difficulty in getting to St Andrews to contact them.

For further details and to reserve a place, email Philippa Johnston, Writing Place Project Manager, at If you have any queries, ring her on 01337 842513.

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