Tag Archives: Gillian Clarke

Celebrate the poetry of Seamus Heaney ‘On Home Ground’

18 Jul
StAnza 2010 In Conversation event

Seamus Heaney in conversation with the late Dennis O’Driscoll at StAnza 2010

Like Scotland, Ireland is famous for its literary festivals, usually centred on areas associated with writers. This one is really rather special: a celebration of poetry and place in the territory of one of the world’s most prominent poets: Seamus Heaney.

‘On Home Ground’ is a new festival, taking place over a long weekend in Magherafelt,  in the South Derry of Heaney’s poetry. The Festival, unique in returning the local Nobel Laureate to his home ground, is one of the highlights of the Derry~Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013 events programme.

Seamus Heaney, as Patron, will open the festival with an address entitled Important Places: A Reading with Commentary on Friday 20 September 2013. During the weekend there will be talks and readings about local places and the chance to take a guided tour of the places Heaney talks about or there will be ample time to explore them yourselves.

Other poetic gems include a reading by award-winning poet Michael Longley and novelist and short story writer Bernard MacLaverty, both of whom are favourites at StAnza. And among the other events are readings by Colette Bryce, Nick Laird and Sinead Morrissey. During the course of the weekend there will an exhibition of paintings and drawings by Michael McGuinness, one of the finest Irish artists of his generation. The National Poet of Wales, Gillian Clarke, will close the Festival on Sunday 22 September.

Nine of the 10 Festival events will be held in the grounds of Laurel Villa Guesthouse in Magherafelt, a designated UK Poetry Society Landmark, which hosts regular poetry readings through the year.

On Home Ground Poetry Festival is part-funded by Culture Company 2013.

The full Festival program including box office information is available at http://www.laurel-villa.com

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

Listen again to the best of StAnza: festival podcasts

5 Jun
Erín Moure

Listen again to Erin Moure at StAnza
/Photo Credit: Chris Scott

If you missed out on StAnza this year or want to listen again to some of our wonderful poets. You can listen on our podcast page here to interviews with (and short readings by) George Szirtes, Alvin Pang, Hannah Silva, Gillian Clarke, Erin Moure and Ken Babstock. The podcasts were made by our friends at the Scottish Poetry Library and Culture Laser who visited the festival, recorders in hand, back in March. 

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!

James T Harding: Only Connect – The StAnza Festival Launch, RiverRun, Twitter & Supper Room

7 Mar

Writer James T Harding on how open discussion is at the heart of what StAnza stands for.

One of the central themes of this year’s festival is ‘Legacy and Place’, and already a lively conversation is growing around the interconnectedness of different places. As well as the more expected linguistic and cultural connections, people have been discussing music, science, and even economics in terms of poetry and poetic interchange.

Gillian Clarke, National Poet of Wales, kicked off both the debate and the festival at the packed StAnza Festival Launch on Wednesday night. In medieval times, she said, Welsh was the main language spoken in Fife. This year’s Welsh poetry focus is about the encounter between two poetic traditions (not to mention two rugby teams), but perhaps it’s the similarities rather than the differences that will be the most apparent – and the most inspiring.

Lesley Riddoch

Lesley Riddoch (Credit: Chris Scott)

Responding to this, Lesley Riddoch threw away her prepared speech for the launch and instead talked to us about her Welsh surname, about how etymology shows us the huge distances travelled by words, and about how the Medical and Biological Sciences Building of the University of St Andrews has toilets flushed by rainwater. (That last one isn’t relevant to this post really, but interesting nonetheless.) She characterised poets as “custodians of connection”, finding and recording the moments of recognition between people and cultures that give us so much pleasure.

After the launch, we processed across the MBSB into the lovely North Haugh Theatre for The RiverRun Project. Curated by Liam Carson, the project consists of music, photography and poetry evoking a voyage through the city of Dublin past and present. Again, interconnection was the word of the moment, with poet Biddy Jenkinson explaining how Oliver Cromwell accidentally created a cultural melting pot in Dublin, in which writers and thinkers from all over Ireland and the rest of the world converged, festered in the Black Dog Prison, and wrote some stunning poetry. Meanwhile, haiku by Gabriel Rosenstock and portraits of places and people from Máighréad Medbh and Colm Keegan took the audience from Dublin’s society women and gang culture to Japan and back again.

Later that night, Lesley took this idea of the ancient interconnection between Wales and Scotland to Twitter, sparking a debate to which everyone was able to contribute whether they were in StAnza or not.

Alvin Pang

Alvin Pang (Credit: Chris Scott)

Singaporean poet Alvin Pang, who attended the launch to read an excellent poem about long-haul air travel, took these ideas about interconnectivity away with him and mulled them overnight. I found myself at a table with him, Sean Borodale and Ron Butlin over lunch in the Town Hall’s Supper Room, and we talked about how our economic situations are more tied in with the rest of the world than ever before. In particular, how the bubble of late-capitalist wealth moves on from country to country at a moment’s notice. That sounds a bit dry, but I promise it was a fun conversation at the time! Also, I wanted to show off about the company I keep at lunch: only at StAnza can you have a pint with multiple T.S. Eliot Prize nominees in one day. 😉

As you can see, we’ve all had a lot to enjoy and digest so far at StAnza – and we’ve only started…

Erín Moure

Canadian poet Erín Moure, StAnza’s Poet in Residence, also read at the Launch, adding to the international flavour. (Credit: Chris Scott)

The point I want to pull out of all this is that StAnza is a bit of a melting pot in itself. The questions raised by Gillian Clarke and Lesley Riddoch in their opening speeches have been echoed, answers, synthesised and argued over throughout the festival, by people from St Andrews to Singapore. This happens in the official events and in the social spaces like the Supper Room in the Town Hall, but also online, through the boisterous #StAnza13 hashtag, @stanzapoetry, on Facebook and through the live Poetry Breakfast panel webcasts. Everyone is interconnected at StAnza – be that in person or online

James is available for interconnecting online and at @empowermint. Watch out for more StAnza blogs by him as the week winds onwards.

‘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 2013 – tickets go on sale!

10 Jan
StAnza 2013 pages in the new Byre brochure just out

StAnza 2013 pages in the new Byre brochure just out

For those who like their StAnza listings on paper, you’ll have to wait just a little while longer for the full brochure, but the Byre Theatre’s own new brochure is just out with their usual spread of StAnza’s Byre events, so allows a little paper browsing.

Of course the full details are available online (with a few last events just being added) at www.stanzapoetry.org, and tickets go on sale to the general public on Monday 14th January.  Details are as follows:

StAnza Box Office:
The Byre Theatre,
Abbey Street, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9LA, Scotland
tel: 01334 475000 fax: 01334 475370

Booking: tickets on sale on Monday 14th January 2013

Box Office open
Before festival: from Monday to Saturday, 10am–5pm (or 7pm on theatre show nights).
During festival: daily 10am–8pm from 6-10 March 2013

Purchase online: (Link from StAnza website or go direct to the Byre’s own website at www.byretheatre.com)
By phone, in person or on line: payment by Visa or MasterCard.
By post: cheques made out to The Byre Theatre.
Concession prices: available to senior citizens, school pupils, students, disabled & unemployed.
Families: family tickets for children’s events admit up to four people (must include at least 1 child & no more than 2 adults)
Early bird discount: 30% off all tickets (full price or concession) purchased on or before 4 February 2013.
Bulk purchase: 30% off tickets bought for 8 or more events.
Disclaimer: please note, bulk purchase and special discounts are not applicable along with any other discount offer.
Free events: for free events, just turn up; all exhibitions are free.

We know from the laments of those who were unsuccessful that there’s always a push to obtain tickets for the more intimate events with limited seating, so this year we’ve added a second all day workshop at Balmungo, to give some more people a chance at getting tickets, and there are also three morning workshops, and six Round Table events.  So good luck at getting all the tickets you want. Most of our headliners, including this year Mark Doty, Paula Meehan, John Hegley, Robin Robertson, Gillian Clarke, Liz Lochhead and Luke Wright, are performing in our larger venues, where there should be no difficulty getting tickets at this time. And of course there are as many free events as well, making StAnza the festival you can enjoy without breaking the bank.

StAnza to welcome Welsh poets in March

10 Dec

Clarke, GillianStAnza: Scotland’s International Poetry Festival will play host to seven Welsh poets in 2013, including Gillian Clarke, National Poet of Wales (left).  In what will be one of the stand-out events during the festival, she will read with Liz Lochhead, the Scots Makar, at StAnza’s hub venue, the Byre Theatre. She will also deliver the StAnza Lecture, taking as her theme the Welsh origins and influences of early poetry.

The Welsh Focus will celebrate the talents of established and younger Welsh poets, three of whom have been shortlisted for this year’s T.S. Eliot Prize. Along with Gillian Clarke, StAnza will be welcoming Ifor Ap Glyn, Robert Minhinnick, Deryn Rees-Jones, Eurig Salisbury, Zoë Skoulding  and Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch.

They will be featuring in a rich variety of readings, collaborations and talks.  Ifor Ap Glyn will be taking part in a showcase of European poets who have been brought together to translate each other’s work. And the legacy of Welsh poets from the past continues to be celebrated in Zoë Skoulding’s talk about the neglected Modernist Lynette Roberts and Robert Minhinnick’s on the legacy of Dylan Thomas.

StAnza’s programme is now online here. Tickets will be on sale from January.

StAnza 2013: programme to be unveiled soon

14 Nov

Plans are well underway for StAnza 2013. The list of headlining poets includes Liz Lochhead, Robin Robertson, John Hegley, USA’s Mark Doty, Erín Moure and Ken Babstock from Canada, and Irish poet Paula Meehan. The festival will also focus on Welsh poetic talent with Robert Minhinnick and Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch already signed up to appear.

And we’re getting ready to unveil our full programme online at the end of November. So watch this space.

As part of the build-up to StAnza 2013, we’ll be releasing a series of podcasts of highlights from last March’s festival. The first of these is now up on our podcasts page here  and features excerpts from readings by Kwame Dawes, Hilary Menos, Samuel Tongue and Nuala Watt, and some jazz from The Dave Batchelor Quintet.

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