Archive | March, 2015

A feast of blogs gives more than a taste

23 Mar
Climate change event at StAnza, photo by Fiona Moore

Climate change event at StAnza, photo by Fiona Moore

One of this year’s innovations was to invite acclaimed bloggers to StAnza as Bloggers in Residence. Fiona Moore and Susanne Arbuckle have already produced a diverse and engrossing range of articles about the festival, viewing the festival and town in text and image, as did James Harding back as this year’s in-house blogger on the StAnza Blog, and you can read and view all their various reports online:

StAnza – inhabiting poetry, by Fiona Moore, Displacement

StAnza – Rising waters from Faroes to Brittany, by Fiona Moore, Displacement

StAnza: Celan and the Holocaust and Different Trains; Shotover, by Fiona Moore, Displacement

StAnza – island poets, by Fiona Moore, Displacement

In praise of StAnza & Carolyn Forche, by Fiona Moore, Displacement

StAnza, Scotland’s most chilled out festival, by Susanne Arbuckle, Adventures Around Scotland

StAnza 2015: a weekend in St Andrews photoblog, by Susanne Arbuckle, Adventures Around Scotland

First Timers Guide to StAnza, by Susanne Arbuckle, Adventures Around Scotland

StAnza 2015 in storify

StAnza turns 18 & contemplates morality

An Archipelago of Poetry

The Unfinished Business of a poet in residence, by Clare Mulley

And a reminder that if you enjoyed StAnza 2015, either in person, by watching some of our live webcast events, or just by following us on social media, please now help us get funding for another festival by taking a few minutes to complete this online survey.



St Andrews Castle Susanne Arbuckle

St Andrews Castle Susanne Arbuckle


Coming up soon in St Andrews

23 Mar
Paul Muldoon at StAnza 2014, photograph by Helena Fornells

Paul Muldoon at StAnza 2014, photograph by Helena Fornells


If you’re gloomy at the thought of waiting a whole year before StAnza comes round again, here’s some cheering news about poetry events coming up over the next few months.

Toppings bookshop in Greyfriars Gardens are planning a series of monthly poetry events on the first Tuesday of the month. This is what they say about them:

“Taking place on the first Tuesday of each month, Topping Tuesdays will be relaxed evenings of poetry readings and conversation, offering the chance to explore and discuss the work of some of the best poets on the contemporary scene. Our host is Don Paterson of the University of St Andrews, one of the most dynamic and critically acclaimed British poets writing today, a winner of the Forward, Whitbread and T S Eliot Prizes. We are delighted that he’ll be bringing his warmth and expertise to a regular showcase of poets – an array to satisfy the most varied of tastes! £5 or £3 Scholar.”

The first of these Topping Tuesday events takes place on Tuesday 7th April at 8pm when Annie Freud, who made a big impression at StAnza some years back, joins Don Paterson, reading from her own work and discussing her poetic craft.

Then on Tuesday 21st April at 5.15 in the Lawson Room, Kennedy Hall, School of English, The Scores, the acclaimed Mexican poet Pedro Serrano will give a talk in St Andrews on TS Eliot and Octavio Paz, drawn from his study The Making of the Modern Poet, followed by a short reading from his own work, with English translations by Anna Crowe.

He will also give a reading in Edinburgh the following day, April 22, at 6.30 pm, at the Word Power bookshop, 43 – 45 West Nicolson Street, Edinburgh EH8 9DB. This will be in Spanish and English, and based on the poet’s book, Peatlands (Arc Publications 2014), a bilingual edition with translations by Scottish poet Anna Crowe.

Both events are free. For more information on the Word Power reading, call Word Power Books on 0131 662 9112 and there’s more about the St Andrews event at…/newsandeve…/thenglishseminar/

Following that comes the next event at Toppings on Tuesday 5th May when Jacob Polley will take part with screenwriter and actor Jonathan Durie.

The Toppings programme continues with Paul Muldoon on Tuesday 19th May; Michael Pedersen & Lorraine Mariner on 2nd June; and on 4th August An Introduction to HappenStance Press and J. O. Morgan.

You can get more information on the events at Toppings on their website at or by telephoning 01334 585111 or emailing

Please give a couple of minutes to help StAnza

22 Mar
Rage against the dying of the light, from Bedazzled, a Welshman in New York at StAnza 2015, photo

Rage against the dying of the light, from Bedazzled, a Welshman in New York at StAnza 2015, photo

If you enjoyed StAnza 2015, either in person, by watching some of our live webcast events, or just by following us on social media, please now help us get funding for another festival by taking a few minutes to complete this online survey. Help us continue to rage against the dying of the light ….


Clive Russell in conversation at StAnza 2015,                   photo by Terry Lee

Clive Russell in conversation at StAnza 2015, photo by Terry Lee


Top picks and pix post-festival

22 Mar
StAnza 2015 launch, photo by

StAnza 2015 launch, photo by


“SAnza for me always helps usher winter into the dark, and marks a door opening into the bigger light of spring.”

With so many wonderful things already said or written about StAnza 2015 it’s hard to pick favourites but this quote from Gerry Cambridge’s Facebook post has to be amongst them.

Two weeks on and with the sun still shining and spring well and truly sprung, here at StAnza HQ we are still recovering from the wonderful buzz of the festival, so we have our feet up and a cup of tea in one hand as with the other we browse through the reviews and photographs which are piling up. A full Afterword with galleries of photographs and links will follow in due course – including, fingers crossed, the text from Glyn Maxwell’s sell-out lecture – but meantime we thought you might enjoy a sample of photographs plus links to various articles, reviews and blog posts already brought to our attention. If you know of more, do let us know. If you were at this StAnza this year we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did and thanks for coming to be part of it. If you didn’t make it this year, here’s just a glimpse of what you missed. And there’s always next year. Meantime, before the links, here’s another quote, this time from Kei Miller:

What an incredible festival StAnza continues to be! An overwhelming experience all around, the readings, the friendships, the wine – but the moment that I think will stay with me, the moment when for some inexplicable reason I choked up and had to look away, was the moment when the Catalan poet Josep Lluís Aguiló talked about the ‘small’ language he wrote in: ‘I have no choice in the matter’ he said, and then turning to his translator continued with such astounding vulnerability, perhaps unintentional but so to the point of it all…. ‘I am in your hands.’

And so to the links. First of all, here’s a brilliant video collage of images from the opening night, from photographer Alistair Kerr.

StAnza 2015 opening night video by Alistair Kerr

The inspiring StAnza poetry festival: The Scotsman review by Susan Mansfield

Risk A Verse, photo by Helena Fornells

Risk A Verse, photo by Helena Fornells

Review of StAnza 2015: Scotsman review by Susan Mansfield

Why we need more poetry events like StAnza, by Charlotte Runcie in The List

Kei Miller comes home, by Charlotte Runcie in The List

StAnza 2015 – Simon Armitage, one of Britain’s best, by Charlotte Runcie in The List

StAnza 2015 – Helen Mort, by Charlotte Runcie in The List

StAnza 2015: Mothers Day – why we need more great writing about being a mother, by Charlotte Runcie, The List

At the festival hub, by Alice Roberts

At the festival hub, by Alice Roberts

The Ferocity of Festivals by Helena Nelson

StAnza Poetry Cafe with Owen O’Neill, by Paul Thompson, The Mumble

StAnza Poetry Cafe with Erin Fornoff, by Paul Thompson, The Mumble

StAnza Body Searches, by Paul Thompson, The Mumble

Stepping it out at the festival finale, photo by Terry Lee

Stepping it out at the festival finale, photo by Terry Lee

StAnza Border Crossing, by Paul Thompson, The Mumble

StAnza Poetry Cafe with Torok & Campion, by Paul Thompson, The Mumble

StAnza 2015, by Elizabeth Rimmer, Burned Thumb

StAnza 2015, by Colin Will, Sunny Dunny

StAnza 2015 erasure, the FCA&C blog

StAnza 2015, by Sarah Hymas







StAnza Poet in Residence Clare Mulley has Unfinished Business

16 Mar Clare Mulley by Darina Garland

Clare Mulley was our Poet in Residence at this StAnza just passed. Having studied literature at St Andrews and been a volunteer at previous StAnza festivals, Clare went on to be shortlisted for Young Poet Laureate for London. We were delighted to have her back again in a different hat! She’s living proof that there really is no escape from the StAnza sphere. Here’s Clare’s round-up of the StAnza experience from a poet’s point of view:

The week after StAnza finds me in my favourite café, as usual taking far too long over one pot of tea whilst trying to decide between two words of an ‘Unfinished Business’ poem. Standard. Although to be honest, that’s not all I’m thinking about. My mind is currently replaying the frantic, packed, and absolutely phenomenal week before – one which saw me doing everything from writing riddles with children to drinking with Dylan Thomas.

I’m still recovering (poets party hard… hey, who knew?) but the strangest thing was coming to terms with a basic fact. Last week was the first time I’ve visited St Andrews, not just as an alumnus, but as a poet. Rather, as someone who feels they can say ‘I am a poet’ rather than ‘I write poems.’

It’s odd being a poet – no matter how much you ‘grow up’, or think that you’re getting better at writing, you’re still afraid that someone somewhere might have made a mistake in allowing you to get this far. So-and-so loved your poem? Well, how can they judge?

The battle between the urge to spout words and the urge to be modest is the thing which makes so many poets slightly cagey. No wonder festivals can be hotbeds of tension.

Thank God, then, for StAnza, which gave me, and so many others, a lucky break. The tiny size of the town compared with the massive scale of the event is what makes it so unique, and so relaxing. You can’t help but meet people, be inspired. Not only an event for artists, but a family business – one where aspiring youngsters are encouraged to mix with seasoned artists, because the organisers know this is the best way to make more artists.

Once, I was an awkward student reciting snippets to older poets, all of whom could have smiled politely and dismissed me. Instead, they beamed and chatted, clearly delighted that someone shared their passion.

Now, thanks to their encouragement, I’m still growing, still hopeful. Unfinished Business, indeed!

Poetry Map of Scotland, poem no. 158: Findhorn Bay

15 Mar


Where the bay births the sea
the world opens, distances stretch,
a wide sky yawns blue.
I’ve seen water retreat, reveal dark sand
patterned by tides, then pour back in to drown
those hieroglyphs again.
The village holds the bay like an arm,
we grew here like grasses over dunes,
felt so sure we belonged.
In this light pebbles look like those little
eggs you buy at Easter. I pocket one, save
it for later in the city

where I will place it on my tongue
taste the surprising sting of salt,
remember this place
where I was not born,
where I am not from,
that I still call home.

Sophia Argyris

To view our map of Scotland in Poems as it grows, and for instructions on how to submit, see

All poems on our poetry map of Scotland and on the StAnza Blog are subject to copyright and should not be reproduced otherwise without the poet’s permission.

An Archipelago of Poetry

8 Mar

I have a theory of festivals, copyright to me, so don’t steal it,” said Eleanor Livingstone—our Festival Director—the other night at dinner. (No points for guessing what I’m about to write about.)

Her theory is that a festival like StAnza, with so many events in such a short space of time, gains its character from the connections that form between the readings. A workshop about the difficulties of translation will illuminate a Border Crossings presenting a poet in translation, of course, but a lot of the time the connections are more unpredictable here.

A metaphor in the morning might resonate with a totally different poet and poem in the afternoon, say. The compare and contrast improves your experience of both… For example, I was struck how both Simon Armitage and Toby Campion—poets otherwise extremely contrasting—both used public announcements on transport as a poetic device to critique similar themes of social injustice. Who knew?

StAnza and the Byre are just one island of poetry among the archipelago of poetry festivals that take place worldwide. We’re honoured to host many international poets, of course, but also programmers and artistic directors who run other poetry festivals. The connections they make here at StAnza spiral outwards—taking poets and their ideas to read, share, and make more connections all over Europe.

One StAnza connection was between poet Jon Ståle Ritland and media artist Michiel Koelink, who met at StAnza in 2012 [check] and found that their practices were well-suited to each other.

Jon’s poetry is often laid out to be read in different directions, in three columns that can be read together as a whole or individually to make subpoems. Michiel’s PoetryMachine, similarly, presents a solar system of poetic fragments revolving, tied down by elastic strings and thrown apart by gravitational repulsion.

The multiple reading paths this creates fits well with Jon’s BodySearches. Jon and Michiel presented their collaboration at StAnza this Saturday. They used the PoetryMachine to typeset Jon’s poems in three-dimensional space – you can view and download the results here. The next step for them, they say, is to think about what a poem designed in three dimensions instead of two might be.

Watching the poems revolve about themselves on the projector screens in the Byre, I am struck by how much like Eleanor’s idea of a poetry festival they are…

and the eyes spring up

and one unknown

All poets are islands, said Bill Manhire, with apologies to Donne. But at festivals like this one we see how they’re animated by the pull of the lines between them. Even a brief look at the #StAnza15 feed on Twitter shows a huge variety of new relationships formed, old friends reconnected, and the beginnings of new ideas squeezed out by the collision of poems.

As Kei Miller commented at Saturday morning’s Poetry Breakfast, asked about the theme of the sea in Jamaican poetry: the sea is not what separates our islands, but what brings them together.

StAnza 2015 live online today, be sure to tune in!

7 Mar

Watch StAnza 2015 live on your pc, laptop, ipad, tablet, smartphone, whatever and wherever you are, 10am today and 10am tomorrow


This morning join Kei Miller, Bill Manhire, Kim Simonsen and Christine De Luca


Win: Become the Wild-Card StAnza Slam Judge for 2015

6 Mar

Elvis McGonagall is set to host the StAnza Slam this Saturday evening. The stakes will be high: the winner of tomorrow’s event will go on to compete in the Scottish National Slam and from there, if they play their poems right, to the World Slam Championships in Paris.

StAnza heads will remember 2013’s winner, St Andrews’s student Carly Brown, who made it all the way to Paris – the youngest woman ever to do so from Scotland!

It happened then, and it could happen again – the World Slam title beckons, and the StAnza stage might just be the trampoline that launches a talented poet into the global series…

Now the StAnza slam is traditionally judged by three literary luminaries, but this year we’re going to shake things up a little.

Joining the programmed panel of two will be a Third Judge, a Wild-Card Judge, an Audience-Member-Who-Got-Powerful Judge, a You-Could-Win-This-Competition-and-Become-This-Judge.

Because when the stakes are high you want to make sure there’s an element of terrifying randomness. We can’t have the poets resting easy, after all.

If you would like to the this year’s Third Judge, and will be in St Andrews on Saturday evening ready to take the stage and vote like your life depends on it, then all you have to do is write a poem that fits in a tweet with the hashtag #StAnza15 (twoem, poeet?), responding to one of the events or themes of the festival: Archipelago or Unfinished Business.

The deadline to tweet your entry is 17:06 on Saturday. We’ll be RTing your entries all day 🙂

Tweet well, friends, and I’ll hope to see you all at the Slam!

StAnza Turns 18, Contemplates Mortality

5 Mar

“We’re all going to die, so we might as well enjoy this week of poetry, art and music while we can!” So said Clive Russell (AKA The Blackfish in Game of Thrones) as he cut the metaphorical red ribbon on #StAnza15—the eighteenth yearly StAnza festival, no less!

Words to live by, I’d say. Now we’re 18, we’re old enough to go clubbing, read 18-rated poetry, and even vote in the upcoming general election. Now is the time to explore new things, and there’s truly something new and exciting for everyone coming up this week in St Andrews.

Short readings from Glyn Maxwell, Sheenagh Pugh and Shara McCallum at the launch party set the tone, and are a forewarning of extreme variety, for the poetry this year. I was particularly moved by Shara McCallum’s evocation of her childhood, “where violence and beauty still lie down together, city of my birth”—this is Kingston, Jamaica—and I’m looking forward to her reading today at 11:30 in the Town Hall.

Our launching evening event last night was the enthralling Bedazzled – A Welshman in New York. But which Welshman in New York? I hear you cry. Dylan Thomas, of course, of set fire to the stars fame.

Ben Gwalchmai and the Bedazzled Company took over the Byre and transformed it into a New York poet’s dive, replete with a working bar and large amounts of real and stage whisky—served with ice to “take the edge off.” The word “immersive” here is quite literal, as the audience was invited to interact with the cast of six literary figures including e e cummings, Maya Deren and Allen Ginsberg. Much amusement was to be had over at my table by my iPad camera. It’s not exactly period appropriate!

The play itself took place in and among the audience on cabaret seating onstage, with subtle yet effective projections and sound design evoking New York, Swansea, and the various boozy poetic dives therein. Imaginary and real encounters between Dylan and literary figures of the day, from a satirical poet off between cummings and Thomas to a fist fight between young Thomas and old Thomas!—swirled together, culminating in a euphoric dance sequence (no really) and Thomas’s inevitable demise, raging against the dying of the light.

It was a fittingly boozy bang to kick off StAnza this year, celebrating our newly-minded ID for alcohol purchasing and tying in with our theme of Unfinished Business. We’re all going to die, after all, so let’s cram in those stanzas and StAnzas while we still have time.

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