Tag Archives: Douglas Dunn

Douglas Dunn In Conversation at StAnza

4 Feb

Dunn Douglas_ This year’s festival is launched four weeks from tomorrow. The printed brochure is now published so watch out for copies appearing in all the usual locations. However if you’d like us to post you one free of charge, just send us an email on brochure@stanzapoetry.org. Or if you’re in the Glasgow area, you can pick up a copy on Thursday 6 February, at our free Glasgow Preview event at Tell it Slant poetry bookshop, 134 Renfrew Street, Glasgow, 6.30pm-7.00pm, part of an evening of poetry from St Mungo’s Mirrorball, followed at 7.30pm at the Arts Club by Bernard MacLaverty remembering Seamus Heaney.

We’ve meantime added another eleven events to this year’s programme for 5-9 March. The Saturday In Conversation will feature Douglas Dunn, recently awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal, talking about a life in poetry with Peggy Hughes, his former student and now programme director for the Dundee Literary Festival. And check out a further ten installations and exhibitions on our online programme at http://www.stanzapoetry.org.

Stephanie Green: Douglas Dunn Workshop at Balmungo House

9 Mar

Poet Stephanie Green writes about her experiences of the first of StAnza’s 2013 workshops at a sunny (!) Balmungo House with Jean Johnstone and Douglas Dunn.  

Just before StAnza proper began I was thrilled to attend two all-day workshops, not just one as last year, at the beautiful Georgian Balmungo House surrounded by the vibrant abstract paintings of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham. For more about the artist, one of the St Ives set, and background history of the house, have a look at my StAnza Blog last year.

Jean Johnstone and Douglas Dunn

Jean Johnstone and Douglas Dunn (Credit: Stephanie Green)

Workshop One was rich and varied, with artist Jean Johnstone and Douglas Dunn, poet and former Head of English at St Andrew’s university on the relationship between art and poetry, and starting with a slide-show of Barns-Graham’s work and talk by Dr Helen Scott, the curator.

Jean showed us her own fragile artist’s books made from hand-made paper, such as the dark, textured ‘mountain-paper’- made in Bhutan and Nepal, which must be shaken so that the pen does not snag on dust and seeds. As precious objects they are enfolded in beautiful silks (which reminded me of seeing sacred masks in Bali revered this way) and Jean’s unwrapping of silks, then ribbons and finally unfolding the pages was indeed like a ritual which she insisted should be done slowly. She has responded to many poets including Michael Longley, John Burnside and Kathleen Jamie. Writing the verses in her own hand, rather than calligraphically, she always chooses one image, and prefers something skeletal, like a leaf after the winter etched in burnt umber.

Mountain-Paper Books

Mountain-Paper Books (Credit: Stephanie Green)

We were allowed to handle the books, to sniff the faint bees’ wax from the coating on their covers and encouraged to finger the edges of the pages. This was a wonderful meditative experience to set us up for writing our own poems, or as Douglas Dunn said, notes for poems—so liberating not to be expected to produce a finished poem.

Encouraged to wander freely round the house, we chose a painting to respond to in our writing. There were so many stunning, vivid works, some vast, that it was difficult to choose and inspiring to say the least. ‘Response’ rather than description was the operative word as Douglas, in his charming way, full of poetic snippets and light-hearted asides, which led to the heart of the matter, suggested approaches to our work.

And there were always the swathes of snowdrops under the trees we could write about Douglas Dunn suggested, if we preferred, though his expression hinted he was teasing. “So difficult not to be twee”, he added with a twinkle.

The day ended with a reading by Douglas of two of his poems from ‘A Line in Water’ his collaboration with artist Norman Akroyd. A perfect day and a perfect ending. (Sorry for being twee, Douglas.)


Douglas Dunn at 70

21 Nov

Douglas Dunn at StAnza 2011 (photo by Al Buntin)

An extensive catalogue of the drafts, manuscripts and letters of leading Scottish poet and StAnza’s Patron, Douglas Dunn, will be freely accessible online for the first time from tomorrow, improving access to the poet’s hand-written workings for fans, writers and scholars alike. The University of St Andrews will launch the Douglas Dunn collection catalogue to celebrate the 70th birthday of one of the UK’s best-loved poets – mentored by Philip Larkin, described by Mervyn Bragg as “among the finest of our poets”, and awarded an OBE for his services to literature.

To mark this occasion the University, where Dunn taught English from 1989 to 2008, has invited Dunn to deliver its prestigious ‘Friends of the Library’ lecture on the subject of ‘The Writer in the Library’, Thursday, 17.15 hours, in the University of St Andrews’ Arts Lecture Theatre. This lecture is free and open to all.

In the new digital age, the Dunn archive is of near-unique historical importance, in that it may well turn out to be one of the last paper archives to span the entire working life of a significant British writer acquired by a University Library. It reveals an intimate portrait of the writer’s false starts, hesitant jotting of rough ideas, brutal crossing-outs, and gradual re-drafting of some of the most tender and moving love poems of the second half of the twentieth century.

Two Special StAnza Events for October

25 Sep

Photo by Al Buntin

In the second of our events planned for Sunday 7th October, StAnza celebrates 15 years of festivals. The first StAnza Poetry Festival launched on October 8th 1998. To celebrate the festival’s continued success, Scottish and American poets take part in a transatlantic reading when StAnza presents ‘Calling New York’, a unique transatlantic reading which brings together two poets in two continents: Douglas Dunn reading in St Andrews and Jay Parini reading in New York. In honour of StAnza’s predecessors and the long tradition of poetry events in St Andrews, the two poets featured have been chosen for the inspiration they gave to StAnza’s founders. Douglas Dunn was the director of festival which immediately preceded StAnza in the 1990s, while Jay Parini started the first ever poetry festival in St Andrews in the 1960s.


The event is part of the Fife programme for the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival and is held in association with the Roger Smith Hotel, New York. The reading will take place on  in the Byre Studio Theatre at 7pm (BST), and at 2pm (EDT) in New York at the Roger Smith Hotel in Manhattan, before live audiences at each venue. The poets will be linked via Skype. Both poets have strong connections with St Andrews. Douglas Dunn is one of Scotland’s most prominent poets and founded the Creative Writing programme at the University of St Andrews. Jay Parini, a poet, writer and academic is best known for his novel about Leo Tolstoy, The Last Station.

Tickets for the reading in St Andrews cost £3 (£2 concession) are available on the door on the night, or in advance from the Byre Box Office, 01334 475000 or  online here.

Earlier on Sunday 7 October, weather permitting, StAnza are holding a special autumn poetry walk. Take in some of the sights and sounds of St Andrews, listen to poems about the season and the natural world. Scheduled to start at 3pm from the Byre Theatre garden, this is a free event – just turn up. For more details email info@stanzapoetry.org

Jubilee Lines

17 Jun

There’s much to enjoy in Faber and Faber’s new anthology, Jubilee Lines – 60 Poets for 60 Years, edited by Carol Ann Duffy.  Each of the last 60 years is represented by one poem and one poet, many of them very familiar names. Just four poems in, for 1956 there’s Class Photograph from Douglas Dunn, looking back at “pensioners in disguise”. And the roll call from StAnza 2012 just past includes Grace Nichols (1965), Christopher Reid offering “The Clearing for 1969, followed by John Burnside (1981), Robert Crawford (1984), Lachlan Mackinnon (1988), Michael Symmons Roberts (1996), Don Paterson (1997), Jackie Kay (1999) and Lavinia Greenlaw (2001).  

To accompany the book, Faber and Faber have collaborated with  Somethin’ Else and The Space to produce a groundbreaking interactive digital platform, which brings together actors’ readings, sound-based generative design and archive footage to create an exciting new way to experience poetry. At its heart are audio readings of the poems in Jubilee Lines, read evocatively by distinguished actors Dan Stevens, Samantha Bond, Lyndsey Marshal and Alex Lanipekun. Graphic designer Stefanie Posavec has produced visualisations of the audio readings using generative design techniques. Derived from characteristics such as the length of the recording and its decibel level, she has created unique artworks for each of the 60 poems.

The twenty poems that most vividly evoke our collective memory are enhanced with rich archive material, including film footage and audio uncovered in the BBC and British Movietone archives, as well as newspapers, adverts and photographs. It includes many items transferred from telecine for the first time, with material that ranges from the iconic (Michael Fish’s weather report in 1987), to the unseen (Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova preparing for her first space flight in 1963), and from the jubilant (children eagerly awaiting the end of sweet rationing in 1953) to the turbulent (miners clashing with police during the strike in 1984).

We are invited to navigate the poems by year, by poet, through archive or by theme (eg. remembrance, identity, vigilance), plotting your own path through 60 years of history, by going to their website at  www.jubileelines.com

(NB  at the time of posting this the link doesn’t seem to be working, we have let them know.)

Poetry raising funds for charity

4 May

A poetry charity night is being held in Glasgow to raise funds for to support Oxfam’s work with rural communities. The event, supporting the project Old MacDonald had a Farm for Africa, will take place on Friday 18th May at 7:30 pm at the Glasgow Art Club, 185 Bath Street, and it promises to be a memorable evening, with a great line up of poets taking part. Confirmed so far are Liz Lochhead, Alasdair Gray , Douglas Dunn, Bernard MacLaverty, Aonghas Macneacail, Rab Wilson, Gerrie Fellows , Miriam Gamble, Peter Mckay, Gerry Cambridge, Tawona Sithole, Robyn Marsack, Eleanor Livingstone, Lesley Duncan, and Jim Carruth.

It is a very special night and for a very good cause. The event will be limited to only 100 people. Tickets cost £10 and can be bought at the Oxfam Bookshop on Royal Exchange Square in Glasgow, or by phoning 0141 248 9176 (ask for Gillian).  For more information e-mail jim@carruth.freeserve.co.uk or to make a donation visit www.justgiving.com/Jim-Carruth

Poetry for May

30 Apr

August Kleinzahler’s reading for StAnza is approaching fast, less than two weeks now, and even before that, as part of a week of activities in St Andrews, two poetry events are on offer, both on Tuesday 3rd May. At 5.30pm in the Garden Seminar Room at the School of English on The Scores, Tom Jones will deliver a workshop on “What makes poetic language poetic”.  Then at 7.30pm in the King James Library in St Mary’s Quad off South Street, Douglas Dunn, Chris Jones and Don Paterson are giving a poetry reading.

%d bloggers like this: