Tag Archives: Harry Giles

A Bird is not a Stone – StAnza presents Palestinian poetry for the SMHAFF

9 Sep

A Bird is not a Stone This year’s SMHAFF Festival runs from 1st to 19th October and the theme for 2014 is “Power”. Once again there will be a Fife programme as part of this in which StAnza will feature. Our event in St Andrews this year for the MHAFF will be a presentation of contemporary poetry from Palestine, as translated by a wealth of Scottish poets, in collaboration with Sarah Irving and Henry Bell, editors of “A Bird is not a Stone”, a new anthology from Freight Books which was published earlier this year. Two of the Scottish poets involved in the anthology, Christine De Luca, Edinburgh’s new Makar, and Harry Giles will be amongst those reading at our StAnza event on 11th October. The original versions in Palestinian will be read by Abla Oudeh. Abla Oudeh Our event to celebrate this new anthology will take place on Saturday 11th October from 2.00pm to 3.00pm in the Council Chamber at the Town Hall, Queens Gardens, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9TA. The event is free, but is subject to the capacity of the venue, so if you want to be sure of a seat, email info@stanzapoetry.org to reserve one. And for more details on what else is happening in Fife during the SMHAFF, full details are online at http://www.mhfestival.com/images/SMHAFF_Fife_Brochure_2014.pdf. A bird is not a stone cover

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‘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

http://stephaniegreensblog.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/stanza-2011-artists-books-roncadoro.html

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.

‘I’m more interested in the edges of a place than the heart’: Harry Giles maps out a Scottish identity

25 Feb
Harry Giles at StAnza's Edinburgh Preview, January 2013/Chris Scott

Harry Giles at StAnza’s Edinburgh Preview, January 2013/Chris Scott

Harry Giles is a poet and performer, founder of the Edinburgh spoken word collective, Inky Fingers. Brought up in Orkney, he now is based in Edinburgh, but his mind is on many other places, as his guest blog reveals. He will be performing at StAnza’s lunchtime Poetry Cafe on 8 March.  One of StAnza’s themes this year is Legacy and Place

I’m thinking about what Scotland is more or less every day. There’s a referendum coming, after all. I’m trying to work out what the lines on the map mean, or might how we might be choosing to redefine them. I’m trying to work out if it matters more to me to be on this side of the line or that side of the line. For me, place (and the legacy of place) is all about borders.

I grew up in Orkney to English parents – the family moved when I was two years old – so I’ll always be an incomer to my own home. I’ve known no other home but Orkney, but the playground spent a decade reminding me that it still wasn’t really mine, and my voice continues to speak the same reminder. I grew up trying to work out which side of the border I stood on, or whether I could just ignore it. And Orkney, of course, is a strange part of Scotland to start with – sort of Scottish, sort of not, and definitely and justifiably sceptical of them down in Holyrood.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that when I came to put together my first book of poetry – a wee pamphlet called Visa Wedding from Stewed Rhubarb Press – that the poems started to congregate around the borders. I was trying to write my way through my identities, as many poets are. My tongue has grown more Scottish over the years, and my heart has too, though I’ve given a lot of both to America as well. Sometimes writing poetry is less about answering the question,“What do I want to say?” as it is about just asking “How do I speak?”

As I do, the pamphlet jumps between the English that colonised Scotland and the mongrel/magpie Scots that colonised Orkney. The poems’ places are spread between islands and cities in Scotland, England and America. The legacies of one place are written into poems about another. Most of the poems, in some way, are about a border crossing – a roadtrip, a mistranslation, sex, body piercing, the meeting of tongues.

Sometimes, when I read another poets’ nature poetry, or poetry about place, I’m astonished at how secure and assured the language can be. Poems where the writer wholly identifies with a place and gives themselves over to it. I love these poems, but I’m not sure I could ever write one – without one true home to be secure in, I’m not sure I can write unproblematically about anywhere at all.

I think I want to vote to change what the border of this country means. Anti-nationalist and anti-state, I use justifications like “regional governance” and “preserving the vestiges of welfare state socialism”, but I worry that it might be something more personal, more gut. I’d like to live somewhere more definite. I’d like to be able to place a cross in a box that says, definitively, who I am and where I stand. I feel like, to the good, I’m taking part in a huge series of national conversations about what this place is. And while I figure out where the cross goes, while I’m still hopping back and forth across borders, I’m glad that I get to write poems about it, too.

Check out Harry’s website and blog here

Photo by Chris Scott

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

Start the festival season at the Inky Fingers Minifest

1 Aug

MC Harry Giles

Inky Fingers Collective, one of the friendliest and most energetic poetry performance  groups around, have organised another fabulous Minifest to add sunshine to the festival season in Edinburgh. It starts on Monday and runs all next week at various venues in the city. Here’s the lowdown from Inkster Harry Giles (shown left at one of StAnza’s events, as MC) :

‘We’ve got shows, workshops, boozy nights, merry days, street performance, the lot,’ says Harry. ‘It’s going to be fabulous. On our opening night, this coming Monday, you can see Harry Baker, current World Slam Champion, alongside local poets and a very special robot. (An actual robot). Through the week, you can go to workshops on writing, rejection and death itself; see the launches of Octavius magazine and star poet Ross Sutherland’s new book; join in the open mic; see major talents like Viv Gee and Ash Dickinson; and plenty more besides. It’s going to be wonderful.’

Yes, he did say there will be a robot.

The full programme is at https://inkyfingersedinburgh.wordpress.com/minifest-programme-2012/, and you can sign up for the workshops by emailing  inkyfingersedinburgh@gmail.com.

Sporting chances for slammers at St Andrews

9 Oct

MC Harry Giles

Saturday night’s Risk-a-Verse slam at the Byre Theatre, St Andrews had it all: high emotion, lots of laughs, bespoke prizes for the poets and nail-biting drama both on and off-stage.  One poet had come from Amsterdam to take part, three more found themselves stranded on the Forth Road Bridge in a go-slow traffic snarl-up  – would they or wouldn’t they make to the show on time?

Fifteen poets were set to take part in the StAnza/Inky Fingers slam.  Poetry competitions can be as fiercely contested as any, but this one, held as part of this month’s Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film festival (as well as fitting in with National Poetry Day and its Games theme), was billed as friendly and thanks to MC Harry Giles  (the M is for magnanimous) the fast-moving, electric atmosphere in the Studio Theatre was inspiring. Poets brought up all sorts of subjects: love, sex, anti-depressants, the Coalition Government, supermarkets, men who don’t dance… strong competition indeed and the judges, Sophie Baker and Young Hawkins, descending unashamedly into sporting cliché after the first half, agreed it was ‘all to play for, Harry.’

We were live-tweeting the event and at least one follower was keeping track of the slam while watching the X Factor, but the tensions were rising far higher in St Andrews. The audience had cast their votes, the judges were ready to confer – but would those last three poets make it over the bridge? Yes, following a flurry of texts and ‘where are you now?’ and with seconds to spare, all three arrived, performed their slots and marvelled at their good luck.

More drama as the play-offs started and first –time slammer, Stewart Hogg, emerged as a finalist – good poetry slams are made of such discoveries. Both he and the eventual winner Claire Askew (both pictured) were treated to rapturous applause. All the contestants were awarded prizes to match their poems: fudge for the sweetest poem, a Bart Simpson mug for the scariest, a torch for the flashiest … everyone was a winner.  

Our thanks to all the poets who took part Alec Beattie, Andy Jackson, Claire Askew, Stephen Welsh, Colin McGuire, Douglas John McLean Cairns, Jonny Lovett, Mairi Campbell Jack, Rose Fraser, Rory Woodroffe, Matt Macdonald, Stewart Hogg, Nicola Watt, Robin Smith and Gill Andrews, And of course to the enthusiastic audience.

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