Tag Archives: festivals

Relive StAnza 2013 – in words and pictures

1 Jul

Luke Wright/Chris Scott


St Leonards Folk Group/Chris Scott

Festival Director Eleanor Livingstone sums up perfectly the unique experience of StAnza ’13 in her Afterword just published on our website: ‘even the weather didn’t spoil the enjoyment.’ Add to that, she says, Gillian Clarke’s lecture on the day that Wales played Scotland, a dash of tartan noir from Robin Robertson’s ‘sepulchral’ toned reading, the pairing of Mark Doty and Erin Moure, 70 poets, plus musicians, artists and filmmakers…and you have the best festival ever.

Yes we had venues to rearrange, and it rained and it snowed, but as the photo coverage of our Afterword page shows, the festival was busier than ever, and more poetry was found out and about in St Andrews than ever before.

Stitched & Spoken ‘poetry dresses’/Anja Hertenberger

Yes, our Afterword page has just gone live with a gallery of photographs taken at the events, the venues and around town. It  is the work of our wonderful team of volunteer photographers who all gave their time, talent and boundless energy to covering the 100 plus events that made up this year’s festival.

In the festival hub

In the festival hub/Jiye Lee

Check out who was at the festival, get a sense of the atmosphere and if you weren’t there – now you know what you missed!

Reviews and Interviews section: Catch up on the reviews and interviews by clicking on the links in our page, which features interviews (courtesy of SPL and Culture Laser) with poets such as George Szirtes, Gillian Clarke, Erín Moure and Alvin Pang.

Jacob Sam-La Rose/Al Buntin

Jacob Sam-La Rose/Al Buntin

Meantime StAnza lives on around town

Some of the exhibitions and installations from StAnza 2013 in March have been extended into and over the summer. Dualism, Chris Park’s quirky photographs of poets, will be on show at Fairmont St Andrews, just outside town, until September. And in town you can see some of our poetry texts on windows at St Andrews Wine Company on Bell Street, Cherries on South Street, and at the Bus Station.

Next year’s StAnza takes place 5-9 March at St Andrews

Poetry, out of line and by design: Stephanie Green

10 Mar

As I entered the Town Hall a voice reciting poems seemed to come from nowhere – I looked around but saw no one – then traced it to overhead speakers.  This is just one of the weird and wonderful incarnations of poetry outwith the page that one encounters round StAnza this year, as part of one of the festival themes, Designs on Poetry.  The Breakfast event, ‘Out of Line’ was also  appropriately surrounded by digital poetic installations – slides of the Badilisha  Poetry Xchange  projected on the ceiling above us, and on the walls was Jon Stale Ritland’s ‘Body Searches’  slides of biological cells and visual poems inspired by the ‘grammar’ of DNA.  The Q & A at the end of the session was open to Twitter…phew and that’s only the half of it.  There was also the visual minuter, Ariadne Radi Cor, creating an artist’s account of proceedings .

Our panel of George Szirtes, Ken Babstock, Chris Emery (Salt Publishing) and academic Andrew Roberts (replacing Greg Thomas who had to cancel) discussed traditional form v concrete poetry, and ranged through the new poetics and the effect of the internet, creative writing at the universities, self-publishing, the multiplicity and variety of places where poetry appears but issues of diminishing sales, fragmentation of audience, new elites and the rise of artists’ books.

Metaphors to describe the design of poetic structure were banded about such as  chiselling, architecture, sculpturing, embroidery, knitting and sewing, but after the event I went along to an exhibition where this was literally realized.


Farlin  involved pairs of poets and craftmakers from Shetland and Fife. Last week at Inspace in Edinburgh, I heard and saw Jen Hadfield read via Skype from Shetland, whilst Kathleen Jamie performed in the flesh in Edinburgh and was relayed to Shetland, so I am already converted to this amazing live/virtual phenomena (actually, since sons have lost the art of pen and ink, this is how my husband and I communicated with our son whilst he was at uni).  So I was interested to learn that the Farlin  poets and craftmakers had collaborated via Skype as well as snail mail.

From exquisite jewellery of silver leaves  to textile embroidered bags, the craft was varied and impressive. The poets, too. My favourites were the sinister bird-creature made out of silver wire by Shetland artist Helen Robertson paired with Fife poet, Paula Jennings’  ‘Seabird, What has Death Left in your Belly?’:  and the particular line ‘Death steals life but leaves a changeling’ which evoked the bird so well.  Another favourite was the pairing of the concrete poem of a tree by Bruce Eunson, Shetland poet and Fife artist, and Molly Ginnelly’s  installation of tree fragments (twigs, stick etc).



Tipyn Bach of Welsh

Lesson Two:

Dai iawn, diolch

pron Die yown dee-olch (ch as in Scots loch)- Very well, thank you.

Which is what Gillian or one of the other Welsh poets might have answered yesterday to your Shw mae

Photos by Stephanie Green

Stephanie Green: Sean Borodale, Gillian Clarke’s StAnza Lecture, and Liz Lochhead

8 Mar

Poet Stephanie Green on some of yesterday’s StAnza events: Sean Borodale, The StAnza Lecture, and Poetry Centre Stage with Gillian Clarke and Liz Lochhead – the national poets of Wales and Scotland.

After the Balmungo workshop with Sean Borodale, it was a great pleasure to hear him reading his Bee Journal poems: with their acute observation and unusual word juxtapositions, chromatic fields, voicing a ‘landscape’ indeed. As Simon Armitage has said “honey itself in poetic form”! Sean was incidentally sitting in a bardic-type chair – which I’m sure, if he was Welsh, he’d be awarded at the Eisteddfod.

Gillian Clarke

Gillian Clarke (Credit: Stephanie Green)

And as one of the strands of this year’s StAnza is Welsh poetry I couldn’t miss the StAnza Lecture given by Gillian Clarke, National Poet of Wales. As you might expect, was about Welsh language and poetry but Welsh has more to do with Scotland than you might think. Did you know, we share a language and a poem, Y Gododdin? Composed in Brythonic (which became Cymraeg (i.e. the Welsh language), it was spoken in Scotland up to the Middle Ages, (except for the Highlands) and all down the west coast of Britain – the train route Gillian had taken in fact to Yr Hen Ogledd (The Old North). Y Gododdin is the earliest British poem written down, (composed between the 7-9th centuries and written down in the 13th Century, ) and the first by a named poet, Aneirin, about a battle fought in Caetraeth (modern Cattrick, Yorkshire) where soldiers had issued out of Edinburgh.

But the lecture (which kept breaking into a poetry recital, since, as she said, she is a poet, not an academic) was also about “childish matters”: the song and mystery of nursery rhymes and their connection with our first experience of language and the roots of poetry. “If there is no music we won’t remember it. If we don’t remember it, is it a poem?”

Gillian elucidated for us the arcane art of cynghanedd, a system of alliteration and rhyme – the first time a list of rules has been made to sound fun. (If you want the geeky details, have a look at Literature Wales website.) But as Gillian said, “Never let a rule or form kill a poem. Always use your ear.” Quoting snippets of poetry she illustrated the beautiful sound patterns which also influenced Gerard Manley Hopkins, Dylan Thomas, Ted Hughes and Carol Ann Duffy. I think a lot of the audience will be going off muttering consonantal patterns – watch out for a revival of alliteration in English poetry.

Liz Lochhead

Liz Lochhead (Credit: Stephanie Green)

And later at the Centre Stage readings, we heard more of Gillian’s poetry, appreciating the sound patterns as well as the glorious physical detail of her obsession with the ‘glamour’ of snow. She read with the equally superb, Liz Lochhead, Scotland’s Makar, whose dramatic monologues with their many voices and incisive edge made this an inspired pairing. It was a treat to hear two of my most favourite poets – both National Poets and both delighting us with their cadences, Gillian’s lilting Welsh and dramatic articulation of Liz’s Scots.

Tipyn Bach (A Little Bit) of Welsh:

I have decided to give you a Welsh (Cymraeg) Lesson a day, in honour of the slew of poets from Wales at StAnza this year.

Lesson One: Shw mae (pron shoo my) = How are you? This is what they say in South Wales, where Gillian Clarke comes from. So make sure you try it out on her when you get your copy of Ice signed.

Look out for more posts from Stephanie as the week progresses!

‘What I’m looking forward to at StAnza’: Stephanie Green

6 Mar

In the first of her Festival Blogs for StAnza, poet Stephanie Green gives us us her personal preview of the StAnza line-up. She will be reporting back on her experiences over the next five days, so keep following! 

603458_10151171877642165_1834394057_n Stephanie Green croppedFirst of all it will be fascinating to see what the atmosphere will be like without the Byre.  The Keep Calm and Carry on spirit that Eleanor Livingstone and her team have displayed organizing new venues, the rallying around of St Andrew’s,  town and University  have been magnificent: a sort of crisis camaraderie will prevail, I’m sure – with the Town Hall Supper Room as the new social and foodie Hub.  In years to come, there will be reminiscing – ‘You had to be there.’  I for one, intend to be there at as much as one can humanly take. And there’s a lot on.  More than ever it seems.

This year not one, but two all day workshops at the Georgian Balmungo House in its beautiful setting – I hope the daffodils are out. Douglas Dunn and Sean Borodale as the tutors. And there’s plenty of other poetry workshops – you could do almost one a day.

All the headliners go without saying, but having lived in Wales for 13 years, I’m a bit biased, so my favourites will be the Welsh poets who will be there en masse this year.  For the faint-hearted, their poetry is in English, but you might catch a bit of Welsh sprinkled here and there, not least in the cadences of Gillian Clarke, the National Poet of Wales a total MUST paired with Scotland’s Makar, Liz Lochhead.  What a stupendous billing.

There’s also a slew of other Cymry:  Robert Minhinnick, former editor of Poetry Wales and co-founder of Friends of the Earth (Cymru), so there’s bound to be some politically and environmentally charged poems, Zoë Skoulding, the present editor, an academic whose poetry is complex and multi-layered, and she’ll also be talking about an overlooked but recently rediscovered Welsh poet, Lynette Roberts. I’ll be checking out,  young and talented, Eurig Salisbury, the Welsh Children’s Laureate. Eurig and Ifor ap Glyn will be  participants at the Translation workshop (so you might hear a bit more Welsh there). Deryn Rees-Jones whose highly original and deeply moving latest collection was short-listed for the T.S. Eliot prize last year will be a Must and last but not least, Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch whose extraordinarily lyrical poetry takes us in her latest volume to the Antarctic.

More bias:  two of my mates will be Must See: Jean Atkin, whose poetry has been produced  in evocative artist’s books by Hugh Bryden of Roncadora Press.  See


And Patricia Ace who launches her first collection.  With a West Indian/Welsh ancestry, she is noted for her moving poems, full of warmth and humanity, often writing about her teenage daughters (and they still speak to her.)

And if you want to spice up your lunch-hour, I recommend the Edinburgh performance stars, Harry Giles, and Rachel McCrum. I’ve seen them both perform with high octane pizzazz– Harry at Inky Fingers, and Rachel at Rally and Broad, a literary cabaret plus other delights such as flame-throwing acrobats. I kid you not.  There won’t be flames at StAnza but I can promise you flair.

StAnza launches its programme at the NLS

1 Feb

StAnza launched its programme on Wednesday in Edinburgh at the National Library of Scotland. In attendance was our Festival Blogger, James Harding, who gives us his unique account below. The photographs are by Chris Scott, Edinburgh’s literary paparazzo. James and Chris will be providing more words and pictures on this blog during StAnza in March. 

Eleanor introduces...

Eleanor introduces…

‘I couldn’t describe StAnza dust with scientific precision, but it’s something to do with a room’s rumble when a StAnza event is about to start, something to do with the friendly greetings of audience members – between both old friends and new acquaintances. It’s a touch of anticipation in the air, the knowledge that something interesting is about to happen.

It surprised me that a room so far away from the festival’s home felt like a true StAnza event, but it did. Maybe it just feels that way because of the proximity of the library’s thousands of books? Maybe it was the steel woks, yoga mats and blue beards brought in by some of the audience? (True story.) Or perhaps it is simply NLS has a secret passageway to St Andrews? (Not a true story.)

Whatever the reason for the audience’s good mood, they were treated to a preview of the festival by poets Ron Butlin, Harry Giles and Rachel McCrum. Harry Giles was a student at St Andrews and a volunteer at StAnza a few moons ago, and Eleanor Livingstone, the festival’s director, commented that it was such a pleasure to have watched his career develop – and now to be able to invite him to attend StAnza as one of the readers.

By now many of you will have heard the sad news about the Byre theatre going into liquidation. The festival has been inundated with offers of support and messages of goodwill from poets, venues, partners, funders, volunteers and audience members alike. Angela Wrapson, chair of the StAnza board, singled out two parties in particular for their goodwill. The University of St Andrews for their immediate offer of help in finding new venues; and the staff of the Byre theatre, who, on hearing that the Byre was closing, came in to work specially to print off hundreds of tickets for StAnza so that all of the tickets booked so far can be honoured. (Stand by for details of the new bookings system.) It’s humbling, somewhat exciting, and not the least bit surprising that StAnza has the support of so many wonderful people.

Rachel McCrum

Rachel McCrum

And as Eleanor assured us this evening, the show will go on! “The ocean of goodwill and everyone’s determination to help us overcome this setback gives me confidence that this year’s festival is going to be sensational.” And it will be sensational, especially if Mark Doty, Robin Robertson, Liz Lochhead, George Szirtes, Paula Meehan and all the other poets attending this year have anything to do with it!

I think tonight’s launch proved that StAnza can sprinkle its magic anywhere it chooses. But tonight was just a tiny taster of the full-throttle celebration of poetry to come this March in St Andrews…

As the toaster of time prepares to trap the bagel of this blog post irretrievably in its toothy wires, so this blog post comes to and end. I am available for stalking on t’Interwebs, and look forward to seeing you all at #StAnza13 – offline or on.

P.S. Eleanor Livingstone has confirmed rumours that edible poetry will return to the festival this year, with the somewhat cryptic comment “This year we’ll make sure you can have your cake and eat it.” I’m not sure what exactly what this will entail (presumably poetic cakes of some sort) but it sounds very exciting! I will keep you informed of further developments on Twitter @empowermint.’

James Harding

Relive StAnza’s best moments on our website

24 May

Afternoon tea with Jackie Kay: one of the memorable moments at StAnza 2012

We have just uploaded  a gallery of delightful photos  from StAnza on our website here  so you can relive the best moments or find out what you missed at this year’s festival. With the Image being a festival theme and St Andrews having had an important part to play in the history of photography, it’s very appropriate that these recollections are visual.

There’s also a selection of our reviews to browse through – by writers from the Scotsman, the Spectator and the Skinny among others. But there’s more to come: we’ll be uploading our podcasts very soon – so you can sample readings again by the outstanding poets who made the festival so memorable.

Photo by Stephanie Green.

James on Day 2/3: The StAnza Lecture, Scattered Like Seeds, PLUS Live Webcasts, Saturday!

17 Mar

The StAnza Lecture 2012: Lavinia Greenlaw – A Good Argument: A Sudden Blow

I’ve never been to a lecture where there was standing room only before. In fact, I’ve never even heard of a lecture that was that popular. Lectures are supposed to be moth-eaten little things aren’t they?

Lavinia Greenlaw’s lecture on Thursday was far from moth-eaten. It was freshly squeezed.

The argument of A Good Argument (see what I did there?) is that a poem makes an argument for seeing the world from another angle. It does this not through deduction or simple seduction – although these are useful techniques – but through “argument as experience,” which is beyond visceral reason. There is a underlying violence to the poetic argument, no matter how sugar-coated it might be. Ultimately, the poem persuades the reader by making them feel its point of view rather than just telling them about it – it has to invade your personal space.

Poems can tap into the raw properties of language to ensnare the reader. Some of the techniques Lavinia explored in her lecture were slippage (for example, between formal and informal language), noise, and unsettlement. “Narrative,”says Lavinia, “is the surface of the poem for me.”

By using examples – the subtitle “A Sudden Blow” is from the first line of Yeats’ “Leda and The Swan” – Lavinia cleverly illustrated her points by helping the audience experience them in the poems used. The example, of course, being a prime example of an experience-based argument rather than a reason based one. It’s not for nothing that she is a Professor of creative writing at UEA…

Lavinia’s lecture has been the subject of much debate around the StAnza venues and will no doubt continue to be a hot topic over the coming days.

Scattered Like Seeds All Around the Byre

One of my favourite things about StAnza – and as a StAnza freshman I have fresh eyes on all this – is the brilliantly vibrant atmosphere that develops around the StAnza venues, especially the Byre Theatre.

Whether you’re being surprised by one of the Murmur Line installations by Holly Pester breathing down your next, debating the influence of T.S. Elliot on Lana Del Ray with a passing poet, or simply watching the projections of poems and photos on the bar wall, there is always something to see and someone to talk to. And that’s without factoring in the fourteen plus programmed events that went on during Thursday.

My favourite attraction – some might say distraction – in the Byre is the Scattered Like Seeds exhibit from Sacramento’s Poems-For-All. You have to see them to believe them:

You see those tiny wee squares of colour dotted in among the Wall of Fame? They are mini poetry books, my friends – very slim volumes.

They’re ubiquitous about the festival. They Byre serves them with cappuccinos like mint chocolates in a hotel. I’ve collected so many that whenever I take out my mobile phone a shower of baby poetry books sprays out of my pocket.

I’m told there there are more than a thousand varieties of microbooks, and that every one of them has its own little cover design. The poems range from frivolous to serious – but you’ll have to read them to find your favourites.

Live Webcasts Saturday!

There will be two LIVE WEBCASTS  (Saturday). Poetry Breakfast LIVE at 10am and Sharks LIVE at 7.40pm, GMT.

I’m overexcited about Poetry Breakfast already, because I will be live tweeting during the show. If you have any questions you’d like to ask one of the panellists – Robert Crawford, Norman McBeath, Lavinia Greenlaw and Michael Symmons Roberts –then you’ll be able to tweet them to me @stanzapoetry before or during the show to be posed during the Q&A at the end.

No tongue twisters please.


As the washing machine of time trundles ever closer to the end of the spin cycle, this blog post has come to an end.

Never fear! You can follow my Storify timeline of the pick of the pics, best links, tweets and boos surrounding StAnza here:http://storify.com/empowermint/stanza-scotland-s-international-poetry-festival-20-22and join the StAnza conversation using #StAnza12.

I’m available for stalking atwww.james-t-harding.comand on Twitter @empowermint.

Photos in this post were taken by John Starr, who also maintains a website atwww.starrphotographic.com.

Stephanie Green: what I am looking forward to at StAnza.

14 Mar

As StAnza kicks off this evening with an evening of poetry and jazz, our guest blogger, poet Stephanie Green previews some events she is particularly keen to see at StAnza. As she says herself, she has been coming to the festival for years and has been blogging about us on her own blog. So it was about time, we reckoned that she did some posts for us. She will be posting here through the festival, exploring the theme of the image in words and pictures. Here are her tips for events featuring some of the rising stars of poetry.

What am I looking forward to? What am I not? This will be my 7th visit to StAnza and I still get a buzz from the sharp, clear light of St Andrews, glorying in the crow-stepped architecture of the university and old town, and imbibing the smell of the sea and diesel in the harbour and the sounds of sea-gulls along with the poetry. Also hearing Big Names I’ve not heard before, and meeting up with poet friends I know from all over Scotland and other poet friends I’ve made at workshops all over Britain or even those I’ve met at StAnza itself. A gathering of poet clans.

The social side of StAnza is one of its best aspects. Having a central meeting place: the Byre, with bar and cosy sofas, it’s easy to bump into the Big Names and chat informally -if that’s what you’d like to do. There are events all over town too but it’s so small and the streets so narrow, that one keeps bumping into the same people. And if you’re a solitary soul, or just a need a break to recover from too much poetry (Heaven forfend) then there are the wide skies and lonely sands of the West Sands to escape to…but enough of escaping, before even arriving.

Gill Andrews is a rising star in the Scottish poetry world – shortlisted for the Picador publishing prize last year and the Edwin Morgan prize, she is an alumna of St Andrew’s university too – tutored by Don Paterson and Kathleen Jamie. As she has a background in the law, you can expect dramatic poems of incisive brilliance, a razor-sharp logic with a visceral punch, so don’t miss her reading at all costs on Sunday 18th March, 11.30am with Simon Barraclough who comes trailing clouds of glory from England.Oh, yes, I must declare partiality here. Gill is friend of mine but don’t let that prejudice you.

Another rising star, and also friend, is Jane McKie (Janie to friends) who pipped Gill in the Edwin Morgan prize by winning it with her exquisite poem ‘The Leper Window, St. Mary the Virgin). St Mary’s is incidentally a church in Sussex where Janie comes from – but she has been settled in Scotland for some time. Her pamphlet ‘Garden of Bedsteads’ (Mariscat Press) was promoted by the Poetry Book Society as their recent Pamphlet Choice. But Janie is a stalwart with two previous full collections to her name, the most recent ‘When the Sun Turns Green’ (Polygon, 2009).
Don’t miss Jane’s reading either – you’ll experience an extraordinarily inventive and unusual imagination which draws its inspiration from folklore and history- the darker strands, and like a magpie, she is drawn to strange, curious things of the natural world: beetles, the archaeopteryx, ostrich eggs, deep-sea creatures, but also writes poems shot through with the anxiety and fears of being a mother of small children. She’s reading with the well-known John Siddique on Friday 16th March at 2.15.

Another friend (Is there no end to them?) I must flag up is Claudia Daventry, star of Poetry Slams, winning a prize at the Irish Satirical Verse competition (the Percy French) in Strokestown, County Roscommon a few years ago. She has since licked the Ozzies in an online slam and is well known on the Scottish Slam scene. However, she is no mean literary poet too, scooping prizes at the literary Heavyweight competitions, the Arvon and Bridport. See her poem ‘Amsterdam’ you can find on the StAnza Participants’ web-page. Witty, hilarious, naughty…but also moving, with a flair for drama. And if we’re lucky, she make break into song. You may end up with a stitch, from laughing, or weeping into your sandwich, while you enjoy her ‘Poetry Cafe’ event at the Byre Theatre on Friday 16th March, 1pm.

If you want a poetry workshop, then I highly recommend the witty, laid-back barge poet (she lives on one) Jo Bell, whose workshop will be on using the negative for positive effects. I had the never-forgotten delight of attending this workshop during the Word Play Festival in Edinburgh earlier this year. No, there will not be a dry eye in the house, and never will you enjoy a workshop more, nor deny the not inconsiderable reams of poem notes you will emerge with. I’ll not flag up the headline poets – because of course you’re probably going to hear them anyway.But check out Tusiata Avia from Samoa, Alan Buckley (past winner of the Wigtown prize), Pippa Little (winner of the Norman MacCaig prize, 2011)

To start off, I am going along to hear Don Paterson, not as poet this time but as jazz guitarist with the Dave Batchelor Quintet celebrating Larkin’s love of jazz on the opening night, 8pm, 14th March.

Stephanie Green

Our thanks to Stephanie, who blogs at http://stephaniegreensblog.blogspot.com/

Keep on reading!

We’ll be blogging about the launch and the festival regularly over the next few days. watch this space!

%d bloggers like this: