Tag Archives: Bill Manhire

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


2 returns for sold out events!

1 Mar

There’s some good news on the sold-out front. One ticket for each of two sold-out events has become available. They are for Tuesday’s workshop at Hill of Tarvit with Gerry Cambridge and for Sunday’s Round Table reading with Bill Manhire. They’re not yet up on the Byre’s box office page – it’s still showing sold out for both – but if you’re interested do contact the Byre by email on boxoffice@stanzapoetry.org or phone them tomorrow on 01334 475000.

Reviews of Bill Manhire

27 Jan

Bill Manhire

Bill Manhire

As part of our project to make available reviews of poets taking part at StAnza 2015, we are obliged to DURA – the Dundee University Review of the Arts – for allowing us to re-post this review from their website. Written by staff and students, DURA supports independent cinema & publishing. DURA promotes diversity and supports local and regional arts. See more reviews of poetry and prose on their website at http://dura-dundee.org.uk/ – This review by Andy Jackson is of Bill Manhire’s Selected Poems.

Selected Poems – Bill Manhire
(Carcanet, 2014); pbk; £14.95

Manhire is the pre-eminent voice of New Zealand poetry; that country’s first Laureate, and author of over a dozen collections, stretching back to the earliest part of the 1970s. He found some notoriety in his early career when a short poem, “Wingatui”, whose meaning was partially rooted in the vernacular of the New Zealand horse-racing world, was included in Private Eye magazine’s “Pseuds Corner” column. It was an act of philistinism for which the New Zealand poetry community took some time to forgive the British press, but that incident has served as only a minor footnote to what has become a significant literary career.

Manhire was from the start unafraid of abstraction; “Poem” from his 1972 collection The Elaboration reads,

When we touch,
forests enter our bodies.
The dark wind shakes the branch.
The dark branch shakes the wind.

However, it’s clear that the poet’s voice has become richer, more conversational over time, although many of the conversations are one-sided, as evidenced by his easily-distracted conversation with “Kevin” in the poem of the same name, from his 2005 collection Lifted:

I don’t know where the dead go, Kevin.
The one far place I know
is inside the heavy radio.

Manhire then goes on to speak more to himself than to his subject, recalling his own experiences of radio, while Kevin sleeps on. To a certain extent, the poet’s work is much more introverted and internalised than it first seems – he appears in most of his later poems as “I” and is rarely detached, which hints through the chronologically-arranged sequence at a growing self-concern as he ages. This not-quite-solipsism reaches its zenith in “1950s”, a supercharged list poem detailing the very personal paraphernalia of his childhood;

My cricket bat. My football boots.
My fishing rod. My hula hoop.
My cowboy chaps. My scooter.
Draughts. Happy Families. Euchre.

The most vividly-drawn poems are from his mid-period work, especially 1991’s Milky Way Bar, two of which are pieces of poetic reportage. “Hirohito” examines the de-deification of the wartime Japanese emperor and “Phar Lap” tells the tale of the legendary Depression-era Australian racehorse. In both poems, Manhire considers the geography of the South Pacific and its relationship with other nations along the Pacific Rim through figures of history and popular culture. In “Hirohito” the God-emperor is replaced by the God of capitalism and commerce in the final lines;

I catch sight of him through snow,
a man with glasses
staring out of the screen
of my 14-inch Sanyo.

In “Phar Lap” he pokes at the corpse of the great horse and the mystery of its death in the USA, evoking the conspiracy theories formed in response to perceived jealousy at the horse’s success;

Well, let’s say he died in California,
let’s say he died of absence.

Manhire is distinctively-voiced and largely accessible, more so as he matures into his fifth decade as a writer, with three new poems tackling the eternal theme of ageing and mortality. The selection’s final poem “Old Man Puzzled by His New Pyjamas” could perhaps serve as a simple metaphor for the older person’s hope for the coming afterlife;

I am the baby who sleeps in the drawer.
Blue yesterday, and blue before –
and suddenly all these stripes.

Bill Manhire has much to talk about – often himself, but also the concerns of others – but he says it with a confident lightness of touch and image, and he is never less than engaging. Infusions of melancholy keep his poems afloat in the mind, and the mood is always questioning, probing. His Selected Poems is a good way for the European reader to introduce themselves to a poet often marginalised by geography.

Andy Jackson

You can find further reviews of Bill Manhire online at:

Bill Manhire will be appearing at StAnza 2015 on 7th and 8th March. http://www.stanzapoetry.org/2015/participant.php?participant=716

StAnza 2015 Programme Revealed

30 Nov


2 AK

StAnza 2014 launch, photograph http://www.alistairkerr.com

It’s 30th November so a very happy St Andrews Day from St Andrews, where the sky is blue and the sun is shining. And here at StAnza Central, there are smiles on all our faces – and no, it’s not because we’re still licking our lips after Thursday’s wonderful Blame Montezuma event – but because after the months of planning and preparation, the excitement and thrills we had to keep secret, and after putting together enough aggregated text for several collected volumes, the programme for StAnza 2015 is finally revealed.

Carolyn Forche, photograph by Sean Mattison

Carolyn Forche, photograph by Sean Mattison

For our eighteenth festival, StAnza comes of age with six glorious days of events in St Andrews from 3–8 March, including two all-day workshops leading up to the festival launch in splendid locations at Hill of Tarvit Mansion House and Kellie Castle. More than 60 poets are on the bill, plus musicians, visual artists, actors and other writers. You can find the programme and browse through it now at http://ow.ly/F5Muc – just click on the top line of any event listing to enter whole page of information. Or of course you can go via our website homepage at www.stanzapoetry.org

The festival will open with a performance of Bedazzled: A Welshman in New York, bringing a little bit of New York to St Andrews. For one night the Byre Theatre will be transformed into 1950’s New York as audience members are invited to enjoy a drink with the cast, in character as Dylan Thomas and friends, while being transported back in time to the heady, bohemian world of Greenwich Village in the 50s.

Simon Armitage, photograph by Paul Wolfgang

Simon Armitage, photograph by Paul Wolfgang

Among this year’s headliners are Simon Armitage and New Zealand’s first Poet Laureate Bill Manhire, Anne Stevenson, Paul Durcan and Sheenagh Pugh, along with several major poets on their first appearance at StAnza, Glyn Maxwell who will deliver the StAnza 2015 lecture, Sinéad Morrissey, currently Belfast’s Poet Laureate, Ian Duhig and American poets Alice Notley, Carolyn Forché and Ilya Kaminsky. Winners of the 2014 Forward Prize for best collection and Forward First Prize, Kei Miller and Liz Berry, respectively are also included in this year’s line up along with Helen Mort, recent winner of the Aldeburgh First Collection prize. They join poets from Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Sardinia and Mallorca and others from across Scotland and the UK. We’ve created an individual profile page for everyone on the bill, so to find out more about them, just go to the online participant index, click on a name and their page will open. There’s also a page for each festival venue.

Photograph by Christine Clark

Performance events include The Shipwrecked House and Sealegs; the visual art exhibitions and installations range from watercolours to 3D digital poetry; there will be music from the Viridian Quartet, performing Steve Reich’s Different Trains, from Kirsty Law, jazz singer Lorna Reid, and from the Black Cat Jook band, and as part of the 15 minute personal ViewMaster shows each designed for, and delivered to, just one person. This year’s events are in association with two leading poetry magazines, The Wolf and Poetry London, their editors presenting poets they recommend; and elsewhere we have Writing Motherhood, A Modern Don Juan, and Past & Present sessions on Alastair Reid, Russian poets and neo-Latin Scottish poets.

Photograph by David Vallis

Spoken word and performance poets on the bill include Hollie McNish, Erin Fornoff, Elvis McGonagall, stand-up comedy poet Owen O’Neill and last year’s StAnza slam winner, Agnes Török; and in an innovations for 2015, Robin Vaughan-Williams will lead an all-day collaborative improvisation performance workshop for up to five people, to conclude with a short spontaneous performance.

That is just one of a range of participation events – six workshops in total are offered this year – along with a Simon Armitage Masterclass. Saturday Live radio regular Elvis McGonagall will host the StAnza Slam for us, and as ever there will be umpteen opportunities for your own poetry, including at three open mic events.

>erasure  image - Sonja Benskin Mesher, text - George Szirtes.

Kevin Reid’s >erasure image – Sonja Benskin Mesher, text – George Szirtes.

Believe it or not, this isn’t everything. We will be adding further events and installations over the next month, and telling you more about our events for Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink, so please keep checking for updates, but meantime enjoy the feast online here.

Tickets don’t go on sale until early January, so you have plenty of time to browse and work out what will be top of your wish list for March. The printed brochure will be available later in January. If you’re not on our postal mailing list already, brochures can be requested by emailing brochure@stanzapoetry.org or telephoning 01334 474610. And make sure you’re on our e-list so you get all the latest updates direct to your inbox. Sign up for this at list@stanzapoetry.org.

White Horses by Karen Cairns

White Horses by Karen Cairns

Screenshot 2014-10-31 07.12.03 (3)


Headliners Announced for StAnza 2015

2 Oct
Simon Armitage (photo Paul Wolfgang-Webster)

Simon Armitage (photo Paul Wolfgang-Webster)

Today is National Poetry Day, and poetry events are taking place the length and breadth of the country. Good luck to them all. As our contribution to mark the day, we are releasing details of some of the treats in store next March when StAnza 2015 will, almost unbelievably, be our 18th annual festival. And if StAnza is coming of age, then you can be sure we’ll do it in style.

Our website at http://www.stanzapoetry.org  has just been updated and now reveals some of the headline acts who are on our programme for 2015. In keeping with our reputation for being a truly international affair, next year’s programme will not disappoint, featuring poets from as far afield as New Zealand, America and France.

Sinead Morrissey (photo by Malachi O'Doherty)

Sinead Morrissey (photo by Malachi O’Doherty)

Among the big names from the literary world performing at StAnza 2015 are Simon Armitage and New Zealand’s first Poet Laureate, Bill Manhire, along with three poets making their first appearance at StAnza, American poet Alice Notley, Sinéad Morrissey , currently Belfast’s Poet Laureate, and Ian Duhig. A previous festival featured a film version of Ian’s famous book, The Lammas Hireling, but this will be his first visit to StAnza in person.

StAnza traditionally focuses on two themes which interweave with each other to give each annual festival its own unique flavour. This year’s themes are Unfinished Business and An Archipelago of Poetry. The first theme examines how the written word deals with the issue of unfinished business as well as looking at ways in which poetry itself is often a work in progress. The second theme embraces poetry which comes from islands, and things coastal or tidal, while also considering how poets and poetry festivals or organisations exist not only as individual islands, but rather as part of an extensive international Archipelago of Poetry.

Bill Manhire

Bill Manhire

We think it’s a strong line-up of literary talent to headline StAnza 2015 and look forward to revealing further details of next year’s programme over the coming months. Expect some surprises!


Poetry Parnassus

10 Jun

It’s not all going to be sport in London this summer. The Southbank Centre are hosting Poetry Parnassus from 26th June to 1st July, the UK’s largest ever gathering of the world’s poets. If you are going to be in or near London later this month, be sure not to miss this huge turn out of poets from across the globe – more than 200 and as far as possible one to represent every olympic country – as they give readings and masterclass workshops. The line up includes big names such as Simon Armitage, Seamus Heaney and Wole Soyinka along with many others from far and near who have taken the StAnza stage, such as Nikola Madzirov from Macedonia and Tusiata Avia from Samoa who both took part in StAnza 2012, two of our previous Poets in Residence, Kei Miller representing Jamaica and Bill Manhire from New Zealand; and from earlier festivals Canada’s Karen Solie, Soleiman Adel Guemar from Algeria, Yang Lian (China), Pia Tadrupf (Denmark), Jack Mapanje (Malawi), Imtiaz Dharker (Pakistan) and Jo Shapcott representing Britain. You can see the list of some of those already chosen here .  More names have been added recently to that list, however the Poetry Parnassus team are still looking for suggestions for a few more countries, such as Liechtenstein, so if anyone has any ideas, they’d be pleased to hear them.  There will be the chance to get involved with over 100 free events and activities, full details of which can be found on the Poetry Parnassus website. The programme includes on Tuesday 26th June a World Poetry Summit at which StAnza’s director Eleanor Livingstone will be taking part to talk about StAnza’s digital festivals and events.

Tusiata Avia at StAnza 2012 (photo by Al Buntin)

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