Tag Archives: Carrie Etter

Carrie Etter on the need to create poetry communities

15 Mar

Our guest blogger, poet Carrie Etter, started her writing career through communities of poets in her native USA. What does she expect to find on her visit to Scotland?

Over the years, I’ve been a member of a number of poetry communities, but for the sake of space I’ll just talk about my first few. Growing up in Normal, Illinois, I found my first such community when at the local university I took an adult education class, ‘Women Writing Women’s Lives’. I was fifteen and the youngest present by ten years. Eight from the class, including myself, stayed together for several years, continuing to workshop fiction, poetry, and memoir, and giving readings as a group around Illinois; we called ourselves Womanwriter.

As few in the group were avidly pursuing poetry, I think it was that much more important I found another community through the literary magazines I discovered in the university library. I started noticing recurring names and turning directly to poets I particularly liked, and when I began publishing my own poems, I felt increasingly part of a community of the page and periodical and think that’s partly why I have such a great affection for “little” magazines.

Moving to Los Angeles at 19, I found a vast community of poets that roved from reading to reading across the city—indeed, across several counties! Soon I learned that one could go to a reading every night of the week, and to try to bring it all together in those pre-internet days, I founded Out Loud: The Monthly of Los Angeles Area Poetry Events, a newsletter that began with 200 photocopies and myself the only person involved, and ended five years later with 3000 printed copies a month and a volunteer staff of 18. Financially I was barely getting by, but I had the best of times.

In Venice, California, on the western edge of L.A., Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center continues to thrive, and those involved in its full, varied schedule include many I knew twenty years ago. Fortunately Facebook helps me keep in touch with some of them, and I hope someday to return and read there, a homecoming I’ve fantasized about perhaps once too often.

Coming to StAnza for the first time, I’ve been curious about the Scottish poetry community, so I wrote to some Scottish poets I know for insight. Scotland’s answer to Beyond Baroque appears to be the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh. As J.L. Williams remarks, “The SPL is an amazing resource in so many ways – the collection, the people who work there, the events they put on.  It’s really a hub for poetry in Edinburgh, and feels so vibrant and alive.” Poetry series also provide a useful meeting place as well as the opportunity to hear a mix of local and visiting writers; Poetry At… and Shore Poets in Edinburgh and St Mungo’s Mirrorball in Glasgow were recommended by a number of poets for their welcoming and supportive atmosphere.

Those surveyed pointed out two main weaknesses in the Scottish poetry community. One lies with publishing, in terms of few poetry presses and lack of attention to poetry by Scottish newspapers. As Robert Crawford writes, “Scotland has no big poetry publisher, and the poetry ‘infrastructure’ of London probably has a scale and range that’s not really matched here.” On the matter of range, the second weakness is the lack of support for “other” or “experimental” poetries; there’s no Scottish magazine that publishes it to any extent, no reading series devoted to it. Sadly, one established “experimental” poet felt there was no place for his work in Scotland. I hope, though, that this is beginning to change. Rob A. Mackenzie, organizer of the Poetry At… series, is becoming known for a catholic taste and hosting an interesting range of poets, and I was heartened when StAnza welcomed my giving a talk on American “experimental” poet Barbara Guest.

I am eagerly looking forward to my time at StAnza and am grateful to its organizers for the opportunity to become acquainted firsthand with the Scottish poetry community. I’d be glad for others’ thoughts, in person at the festival and here online, to improve my knowledge and understanding of it.

Carrie’s talk on Barbara Guest is at the Town Hall on Saturday 19th at 2.15pm. She will be reading at St John’s Undercroft on Sunday 20th at 11.30am. Details at http://www.stanzapoetry.org

StAnza ‘takes off’ at the NLS in Edinburgh

9 Feb

New festival director Eleanor Livingstone hosted a preview of StAnza’s festival programme at the NLS in Edinburgh last night, offering a taster of  the poetic and musical feast to come.

Poets Rab Wilson and Claire Askew and the traditional group Lurach showcased three aspects of the festival programme: the two themes, Timepiece and the Poets Ark, and a special focus on Gaelic poetry and music. Eleanor and members of the StAnza team read a selection of  poems by some of the UK and international poets who are coming to StAnza in March: Philip Gross, Carrie Etter, Selima Hill and Tom Petsinis among over 60 talented voices to look forward to.

Picking up on the theme of history (Timepiece) Rab unearthed the hidden history of  Fife mining and Claire Askew explored the intersections between her own ancestors and history. Lurach gave us some slip jigs and reels and heartstoppingly lovely melodies: a sample of the Gaelic riches to come.

If you are in Fife or Tayside area, don’t miss the Preview on Tuesday 15th February at Dundee Rep with guest poets Stewart Conn and Dawn Wood. For more about the programme and to view our brochure online, check the StAnza website: http://www.stanzapoetry.org

Poet Claire Askew at the Preview (Photo Chris Scott)

StAnza’s programme is now online!

9 Dec

If you are snowed in and have time to surf, take a look at StAnza’s programme for 2011 which has just gone online at www.stanzapoetry.org

The plethora of poets are due to appear at the festival at the Byre Theatre (left) and other venues in St Andrews, 16-20 March. The line-up is one of the most intriguing yet. Just confirmed is slam legend Bob Holman, who made this brand of performance poetry a force to be reckoned with. Fellow New Yorker Marilyn Hacker is also making a rare visit to Scotland. These transatlantic poets will be joining talents from closer to home: Ciaran Carson: the acclaimed poet from Northern Ireland. Julia Donaldson: the hugely popular children’s author and poet, of Gruffalo fame, who will be heading up the festival’s Children’s Programme and Douglas Dunn, Scotland’s most eminent poet. Recent T. S. Eliot Prize winner Philip Gross has also just been added to the list.

More names to plan your visit to StAnza around are Paul Farley, Selima Hill, Yang Lian, Carrie Etter and Fiona Sampson. Scotland’s voices include John Burnside, Stewart Conn, Helena Nelson, Rab Wilson, Hugh MacMillan and Tom Pow.

Among the international voices are Italy’s Antonella Anedda, Iraqi poet, Adnan al- Sayegh, Belgium’s sound and visual poetry group Krikri, and poets from Georgia and Australia. We’ll be posting more entries about the line-up over the next few months.

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