Tag Archives: Eleanor Livingstone

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.


Taste the Salt: Reading in St Andrews, Thursday 23rd October

22 Oct

RBWFollowing timeously on yesterday’s high winds and stormy seas comes a reading of sea poems, from the anthology, Running Before the Wind, published by Grey Hen Press, which has received various accolades:

‘A wind-shaken, salt-laden, heartload of poems by women.’ Gillian Clarke

‘These poets explore all aspects of the ocean from the mundane to the mighty . Go where they take you. Taste the salt in their words.’ Diana Hendry

The event which takes place at Zest, 95 South Street, St Andrews, KY16 9QW at 6.00pm on Thursday 23rd October has been arranged by StAnza’s Booksellers, J & G Innes.  StAnza’s own Eleanor Livingstone will be reading along with Lyn Moir, Sheila Templeton and A.C. Clarke, three poets who have appeared at StAnza in recent years.  They will each be reading a selection of sea poems from the anthology.

It’s a free event, from 6.00pm to 7.30pm, so no need to book, just turn up.


June is bursting out ….

4 Jun

Tanya Shirley

Tanya Shirley

While June is now here, March is still a fond memory. We are sorting through all the photographs and reviews of this year’s festival and a selection of these will appear in an Afterword page on our website soon, together with this year’s lecture by David Constantine. But meantime if you’d like to recapture the flavour of StAnza 2014, three podcasts are now available on our website at http://www.stanzapoetry.org/podcast/ all recorded by our good friend Jennifer Williams from the Scottish Poetry Library, and featuring Tanya Shirley, Brian Turner and US poet Ilyse Kusnetz, recent winner of the US T.S. Eliot Prize, who was in St Andrews for the festival.

Elsewhere, it’s good to see that the Byre Theatre has a busy programme for this month. Full details on their website at http://www.byretheatre.com, but here is a quick summary:

Friday 6th & Saturday 7th: Byre Youth Theatre: Haud yer Wheesht at 7pm. This is a piece that has been devised by the Youth Theatre and includes all members from the nursery group through to the young adults.

Tuesday 10th at 7pm, StAnza’s own Brian Johnstone launches his latest collection, Dry Stone Work. People planning to attend this should rsvp Brian on brian@brianjohnstonepoet.co.uk.

Friday 13th; Flat Caps: Live music by local performers.

Sunday 15th to Tuesday 17th: St Andrews Opera presents Benjamin Britten¹s sparkling comedy, Albert Herring.

Saturday 21st: Elaine C Smith at 7.30pm, Still Standing…..Just

Still in Fife, but over in Freuchie for the next Fife Writes event, Helena Nelson of HappenStance Press will be giving a reading at the Lomond Hills Hotel at 7.30pm on Thursday 26th June with StAnza’s Eleanor Livingstone and Lindsay Macgregor, co-host of Ladybank’s Platform Poetry. It’s a free email but space is limited so if you plan to attend, you should email george@george-sinclair.com.

Moving a bit further away still, Brian Johnstone will have a second launch event in Edinburgh at 7pm on Monday 9th June at St Columba’s by the Castle Church Hall, 14 Johnston Terrace, Edinburgh EH1 2PW.

Later in the month Germaine Greer is coming to Edinburgh on 21st June to mark unveiling of paving stone in Makars Court for Elizabeth Melville, Scotland’s first woman poet in print, as part of a day of events about Scottish women writers. Following the unveiling, which is a free public event, there will be a lunch reception followed by an afternoon session with James Robertson and Meg Bateman, and the day will conclude with a concert in St Giles. Full details are online at http://www.historyfest.co.uk/pages/elizabeth-melville-day.

So whether the sun shines or not, June has plenty to offer.

Fife Writes Again

28 May

The next Fife Writes Event will take place at the Lomond Hills Hotel in Freuchie on Thursday 26 June at 7.30 pm when the theme will be ‘Fife Writes Speaks Out’. Three Fife based writers, Helena Nelson, Lindsay Macgregor and StAnza’s own Eleanor Livingstone will each be reading, and Dominic Venditozzi will provide music.

The event is free but please contact george@george-sinclair.com for details and to book a seat. Numbers are limited, so early booking is recommended. Fife Writes is a new writing group recently set up by Create in Fife in association with Fife Cultural Trust. They already have over 100 members, many of whom are professional and budding writers.

Contact details are as follows:

George Sinclair
Organising Team
Fife Writes – part of Create in Fife

email george@george-sinclair.com

Sample superb poetry and music this week in Edinburgh

18 Aug

With the festival season in Edinburgh hotting up (with weather to match), it’s great to see so much poetry on offer across the city. Starting on 22 August, Liz Lochhead leads the line-up of poets performing at Poetry in the Persian Tent, part of the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, based at St John’s Church in the West End.

True to the ethos of this festival, the readings are in aid of the Old MacDonald had a Farm for Africa Project, in association with Oxfam. Two familiar StAnza faces have been involved in setting up this event: poets Jim Carruth and Stephanie Green, who will also be reading. There’ll be an hour a day of poetry and music each day at 11am from 22nd to 26th August. Headlining poets are the aforesaid Liz, John Glenday, Jackie Kay, Vicki Feaver, Aonghas MacNeacail and Stewart Conn. Check out the full line-up here  Tickets are £10 (£8), available through the Hub box office from their website  or email boxoffice@hubtickets.co.uk, or telephone 0131 473 2000. You can also get them on the door, but as the space is limited, it’s advisable to book ahead.  

One of the Persian tent poets, Ryan van Winkle, has a solo poetry show of his own at the arty new festival venue, Summerhall, near the Meadows. ‘Red like a room our room used to feel’ is a short one-to-one reading in the intriguingly decorated surroundings of the ‘red room’, accompanied by a subtle sound track. You can even have a cup of tea or a wee taste of port. Details at www.summerhall.co.uk   And there’s plenty more to look forward to this week, including the StAnza showcase on 20th August, also at the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, featuring John Siddique, Anna Crowe, and Dawn Wood; the fabulous BBC Slam, running each afternoon from 20th (our Director Eleanor Livingstone is one of the judges), and poets Lavinia Greenlaw, Don Paterson and William Letford among the poets appearing at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. And you can find a host of other poetry events on our handy calendar:

 StAnza’s Edinburgh Poetry & Spoken Word Calendar August 2012

World Poetry Summit

19 Jun

 The World Poetry Summit takes place on Tuesday 26th June at the Southbank in London, as part of their Poetry Parnassus festival.  StAnza’s Festival Director, Eleanor Livingstone is taking part in a session entitled Unlimited Possibilities: e-Poetry and Virtual Festivals, Literature in the Digital Era. That this coincides with the build-up to StAnza’s first Digital Slam via Twitter and other online media, is not so much a coincidence as an indication of how involved StAnza is with digital media nowadays. This is just the latest project which follows on our use of digital media at our spring festival in March, including a Skyped contribution from Shetland at one panel discussion, and the live streaming of four further events during the festival.

The speakers at the World Poetry event next Tuesday also include Alvin Pang from Singapore and Nikola Madzirov from Macedonia, a StAnza 2012 poet, and the event will be Chaired by Sarah Ellis, the Digital Producer at the Royal Shakespeare Company.  Further programme details are as follows:

Unlimited Possibilities: e-Poetry and Virtual Festivals – Literature in the Digital Era

Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall

12 noon – 1pm

The description for the event encourages people to: “Find out about some of the most exciting digital projects ranging from animoetry to translation collaborations and Silent Poetry Slams to virtual festivals.” And Unlimited Possibilities: e-Poetry and Virtual Festivals, Literature in the Digital Era is just one event in a day-long programme at the World Poetry Summit, which also has sessions on topics such as elitism in poetry, and translation. Full details can be found online at the Poetry Parnassus website.

The party’s over…until next year…

21 Mar

Believe it or not, StAnza 2011 is over – bar some tidying up at the Byre Theatre, who have played host to the poetry and a’ that.

In a festival with the theme Timepiece, it’s ironic that the event itself is being transformed into memories: lines of poetry being recalled, pictures on Facebook pages and snapshots on people’s mobiles.

As Eleanor Livingstone (left) introduced the final centre stage reading last night, there was a big round of applause, for this was her first StAnza as Festival Director . But as this listener settled down to enjoy the poetry of the marvellous Ciaran Carson and Fife’s own world class poet, Douglas Dunn, it was with a sense of how precious these last moments of the festival were.

Luckily we can relive the experience thanks to our social media supremo Colin Fraser and his team, who recorded the readings, and to our team of photographers who have captured the festival’s atmosphere through some wonderful images. Check us out here, on Facebook and on Twitter as we post our memories. Perfect for those who couldn’t make it to StAnza this year and hate to miss out.

We were lucky in so many ways: the mercurial weather systems of St Andrews produced almost-warm sunshine and the nights were blessed by a beautiful full moon in clear skies – our overseas visitors saw the town and its surroundings at its best. A few of us soaked up the sunshine this morning outside    Zest cafe in South Street (future visitors take note – there are not many suntraps in this town), and chatted about the events we had enjoyed. As well the main events there are all the incidentals – Selima Hill deftly dealing with an unexpected heckler and Douglas Dunn taking not one but two graceful bows, after the longest ovation in StAnza’s history.  There was the moment, for me, backstage, when the sound of the SCO and St Andrews Chamber Orchestra (tuning up before their Sunday concert) came in waves up the stairwell from the Auditorium.  Lots more memories – more than one blog can hold.

I’m writing this in the Byre Theatre, where, as I said, we have been tidying up and packing up StAnza stuff for next year. Ah next year! Believe it or not, after a brief rest and a few meetings for post match analysis, the whole shebang gets into gear again as plans are hatched for 2012.

Thanks again to the gorgeous Peggy Hughes from the Scottish Poetry library for her brilliant festival blogging. Keep checking in for more news and clips from StAnza 2011.

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