Tag Archives: Ian Duhig

Review of Ian Duhig’s Digressions

15 Feb

digressions-194x300As part of our project to make available reviews of poets taking part at StAnza 2015, we are obliged to DURA – the Dundee University Review of the Arts – for allowing us to re-post this review from their website. Written by staff and students, DURA supports independent cinema & publishing. DURA promotes diversity and supports local and regional arts. See more reviews of poetry and prose on their website at http://dura-dundee.org.uk/

Ian Duhig and Philippa Troutman
(Smokestack Books; 2014) pbk; £7.95

Ian Duhig as been, to use Lawrence Sterne’s own phrase, “Shandying about” in Yorkshire for Digressions, his collaboration with artist-printmaker, Philippa Troutman. In 2013, the tercentenary of Sterne’s birth, they set out from Shandy Hall, Coxwold in North Yorkshire where The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy was written, to celebrate Sterne’s great work through their own poetry and visual images.

The novel is ostensibly Tristram’s narration of his life story but he makes constant explanatory digressions to add context and colour. In similar fashion, Duhig and Troutman follow trails from the novel and along the by-ways around Shandy Hall, allowing themes for their collaboration to arise.

So there are poems and images of meteor strikes much like the one witnessed in Tristram Shandy; the land-art maze near Shandy Hall called City of Troy which reminds them of Sterne’s labyrinthine writing style; and local roadmaker, Blind Jack Metcalf, who built the road from Duhig’s hometown of Leeds to Shandy Hall. This process of connection and digression is described in the poem, “Which Reminds Me”:

Which reminded me of that medieval hunting book,
its raptor hierarchy that gave the merlin to the lady,
which reminded me in turn of Le Roman de Silence,
lost for centuries, anonymous, its narrator unreliable.

While it certainly helps to be familiar with either the novel or Shandy Hall and its environs, the digressive poems about landscape, history, people and traditions largely stand on their own.

In addition, Philippa Troutman’s fifteen beautifully reproduced prints and drawings echo these strong themes and are intrinsic to the book. There are powerful images of the minotaur, a hobbyhorse, Blind Jack Metcalf and other motifs which pick out and intensify the colours and textures of the poems. There’s also a useful prose “Afterforeword” by Duhig which describes the context for and process of the collaboration.

The poems themselves range from free verse to contemporary ballads. The rather ethereal modern-day “psychogeography” of the collection is set out in the early poem, “Lochean Keys”:

The signal box at Coxwold
serves a line that isn’t there,
connecting nothing with nothing,
thin air with thinner air

but its trains of ideas
(the phrase is Locke’s)
take you to – & – &-
past Coxwold signal box.

Several of the poems in Digressions are written in rhyme forms. “The Ballad of the Blind Man’s Road”, featuring Metcalf, explores different “lines” in the landscape as metaphors for life – straight roads, the end of the line, lines of poetry:

 …round Sterne’s home folk thought a man
whose impulse was to straighten
showed the signs by ruling lines
of being ruled by Satan.

So like Sterne’s book, they made a maze
to leave their fiends behind;
but if they found it hard to leave,
it’s harder now to find,

as if a maze outside this maze
held bigger fiends in turn
which tried to keep me from this place
then kept me here to learn.

Duhig is an extremely versatile poet, both in the range of his imagination and in his use of different poetic forms. The final poetic piece in the collection, “Lost Chapter”, opens:

Philip José Farmer would trace these mutant lines
to when the Wold Newton Stone had struck Earth
on the grounds of the real son of imaginary Didius,
who launched Sterne’s writing career as the target
of the pulped History of a Good Warm Watch-Coat,
as the groundbreaking meteorite targeted this Wold
to explode the Ptolemaic model of our solar system…

Digressions, with its prose, poetry and visual images, is a grand celebration of Shandy country.

Lindsay Macgregor

Ian Duhig will be at StAnza on 7th and 8th March http://www.stanzapoetry.org/2015/participant.php?participant=698

StAnza 2015 Programme Revealed

30 Nov


2 AK

StAnza 2014 launch, photograph http://www.alistairkerr.com

It’s 30th November so a very happy St Andrews Day from St Andrews, where the sky is blue and the sun is shining. And here at StAnza Central, there are smiles on all our faces – and no, it’s not because we’re still licking our lips after Thursday’s wonderful Blame Montezuma event – but because after the months of planning and preparation, the excitement and thrills we had to keep secret, and after putting together enough aggregated text for several collected volumes, the programme for StAnza 2015 is finally revealed.

Carolyn Forche, photograph by Sean Mattison

Carolyn Forche, photograph by Sean Mattison

For our eighteenth festival, StAnza comes of age with six glorious days of events in St Andrews from 3–8 March, including two all-day workshops leading up to the festival launch in splendid locations at Hill of Tarvit Mansion House and Kellie Castle. More than 60 poets are on the bill, plus musicians, visual artists, actors and other writers. You can find the programme and browse through it now at http://ow.ly/F5Muc – just click on the top line of any event listing to enter whole page of information. Or of course you can go via our website homepage at www.stanzapoetry.org

The festival will open with a performance of Bedazzled: A Welshman in New York, bringing a little bit of New York to St Andrews. For one night the Byre Theatre will be transformed into 1950’s New York as audience members are invited to enjoy a drink with the cast, in character as Dylan Thomas and friends, while being transported back in time to the heady, bohemian world of Greenwich Village in the 50s.

Simon Armitage, photograph by Paul Wolfgang

Simon Armitage, photograph by Paul Wolfgang

Among this year’s headliners are Simon Armitage and New Zealand’s first Poet Laureate Bill Manhire, Anne Stevenson, Paul Durcan and Sheenagh Pugh, along with several major poets on their first appearance at StAnza, Glyn Maxwell who will deliver the StAnza 2015 lecture, Sinéad Morrissey, currently Belfast’s Poet Laureate, Ian Duhig and American poets Alice Notley, Carolyn Forché and Ilya Kaminsky. Winners of the 2014 Forward Prize for best collection and Forward First Prize, Kei Miller and Liz Berry, respectively are also included in this year’s line up along with Helen Mort, recent winner of the Aldeburgh First Collection prize. They join poets from Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Sardinia and Mallorca and others from across Scotland and the UK. We’ve created an individual profile page for everyone on the bill, so to find out more about them, just go to the online participant index, click on a name and their page will open. There’s also a page for each festival venue.

Photograph by Christine Clark

Performance events include The Shipwrecked House and Sealegs; the visual art exhibitions and installations range from watercolours to 3D digital poetry; there will be music from the Viridian Quartet, performing Steve Reich’s Different Trains, from Kirsty Law, jazz singer Lorna Reid, and from the Black Cat Jook band, and as part of the 15 minute personal ViewMaster shows each designed for, and delivered to, just one person. This year’s events are in association with two leading poetry magazines, The Wolf and Poetry London, their editors presenting poets they recommend; and elsewhere we have Writing Motherhood, A Modern Don Juan, and Past & Present sessions on Alastair Reid, Russian poets and neo-Latin Scottish poets.

Photograph by David Vallis

Spoken word and performance poets on the bill include Hollie McNish, Erin Fornoff, Elvis McGonagall, stand-up comedy poet Owen O’Neill and last year’s StAnza slam winner, Agnes Török; and in an innovations for 2015, Robin Vaughan-Williams will lead an all-day collaborative improvisation performance workshop for up to five people, to conclude with a short spontaneous performance.

That is just one of a range of participation events – six workshops in total are offered this year – along with a Simon Armitage Masterclass. Saturday Live radio regular Elvis McGonagall will host the StAnza Slam for us, and as ever there will be umpteen opportunities for your own poetry, including at three open mic events.

>erasure  image - Sonja Benskin Mesher, text - George Szirtes.

Kevin Reid’s >erasure image – Sonja Benskin Mesher, text – George Szirtes.

Believe it or not, this isn’t everything. We will be adding further events and installations over the next month, and telling you more about our events for Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink, so please keep checking for updates, but meantime enjoy the feast online here.

Tickets don’t go on sale until early January, so you have plenty of time to browse and work out what will be top of your wish list for March. The printed brochure will be available later in January. If you’re not on our postal mailing list already, brochures can be requested by emailing brochure@stanzapoetry.org or telephoning 01334 474610. And make sure you’re on our e-list so you get all the latest updates direct to your inbox. Sign up for this at list@stanzapoetry.org.

White Horses by Karen Cairns

White Horses by Karen Cairns

Screenshot 2014-10-31 07.12.03 (3)


Headliners Announced for StAnza 2015

2 Oct
Simon Armitage (photo Paul Wolfgang-Webster)

Simon Armitage (photo Paul Wolfgang-Webster)

Today is National Poetry Day, and poetry events are taking place the length and breadth of the country. Good luck to them all. As our contribution to mark the day, we are releasing details of some of the treats in store next March when StAnza 2015 will, almost unbelievably, be our 18th annual festival. And if StAnza is coming of age, then you can be sure we’ll do it in style.

Our website at http://www.stanzapoetry.org  has just been updated and now reveals some of the headline acts who are on our programme for 2015. In keeping with our reputation for being a truly international affair, next year’s programme will not disappoint, featuring poets from as far afield as New Zealand, America and France.

Sinead Morrissey (photo by Malachi O'Doherty)

Sinead Morrissey (photo by Malachi O’Doherty)

Among the big names from the literary world performing at StAnza 2015 are Simon Armitage and New Zealand’s first Poet Laureate, Bill Manhire, along with three poets making their first appearance at StAnza, American poet Alice Notley, Sinéad Morrissey , currently Belfast’s Poet Laureate, and Ian Duhig. A previous festival featured a film version of Ian’s famous book, The Lammas Hireling, but this will be his first visit to StAnza in person.

StAnza traditionally focuses on two themes which interweave with each other to give each annual festival its own unique flavour. This year’s themes are Unfinished Business and An Archipelago of Poetry. The first theme examines how the written word deals with the issue of unfinished business as well as looking at ways in which poetry itself is often a work in progress. The second theme embraces poetry which comes from islands, and things coastal or tidal, while also considering how poets and poetry festivals or organisations exist not only as individual islands, but rather as part of an extensive international Archipelago of Poetry.

Bill Manhire

Bill Manhire

We think it’s a strong line-up of literary talent to headline StAnza 2015 and look forward to revealing further details of next year’s programme over the coming months. Expect some surprises!


Poetry Loops

26 Feb

Poetry LoopsEach year at StAnza we show a range of short poetry films. This year they will be showing in the Conference Room at the Byre Theatre from 10.00am-8.00pm from Thursday 6th March to Sunday 9th March. This installation is free and unticketed, so whenever you have a spare few minutes at the festival, you can take in a short burst of filmpoem. As ever this year’s selection offers a diverse range of what’s currently being produced. Here is what will be on offer.

Lifted is a poem about the intriguing nature of travelling uphill in a canal boat, written and read by canal laureate Jo Bell and realised as a filmpoem by the filmmaker and photographer Alastair Cook. It was commissioned as one of four canal-themed filmpoems by the Poetry Society in partnership with the Canal & River Trust as part of the Canal Laureate 2013 Project. Filmed in Stone, Staffordshire. Length: 3:42.

‘All water wants, all water ever wants, / is to fall. So, we use the fall to lift us, // make of water its own tool, as simple / as a crowbar or a well-tied knot’

The Black Delph Bride by Liz Berry is a dark and mysterious poem inspired by an original Victorian canal map of Dudley and the feeling of ghostliness that lingers across the canal network. The atmospheric film was made by Alastair Cook, a filmmaker and photographer commissioned by the Poetry Society in partnership with the Canal & River Trust as part of the Canal Laureate 2013 Project. The poem is read by the author, and was filmed in Dudley. Length: 3:13.

‘Black Delph, Black Delph, my girl she floats,/ her bridesmaids: eels and voles and stoats. // Snuff your lantern / Hear her sing’

Ian Duhig’s poem Grand Union Bridge returns to Paddington Basin, and the ‘old black canal’ of the poet’s adolescence. Full of transgressive glamour and a sense of a dark kind of magic, Alastair Cook’s filmpoem was commissioned by the Poetry Society in partnership with the Canal & River Trust as part of the Canal Laureate 2013 Project. The poem is read by the author. Length: 4:50.

‘Some winters, the Cut grew a glass skin: / you could see through it now, a window / on the film-maker’s alchemical darkroom.’

The Water Doesn’t Move, the Past Does is Ian McMillan’s canal poem, commissioned as one of four filmpoems by the Poetry Society in partnership with the Canal & River Trust as part of the Canal Laureate 2013 Project. Rooted in place and history, his poem explores the voice of a canal and aqueduct in Stanley Ferry, Wakefield. It was read by the author and filmed by Alastair Cook. Length: 2:31.

‘The aqueduct speaks / In the voice of round here: vowels / Flattened by hammers, words / Shortened like collier’s breath’

Lifted, The Black Delph Bride, Grand Union Bridge and The Water Doesn’t Move the Past Does were made for the Poetry Society by filmmaker and photographer Alastair Cook http://www.alastaircook.com

Commissioned by the Poetry Society, Evaporations is a new filmpoem by Alice Oswald and Chana Dubinski exploring water’s different states. The theme of National Poetry Day 2013 was ‘Water, Water Everywhere’ – this new work was commissioned to celebrate. Director of Photography Andrew Brown, Editor Richard Couzins. Filmed on location in Devon, with thanks to Riverford Organic Farms. Length: 5:56.

‘Yes Yes there is Ice but I notice / The Water doesn’t like it so orderly / What Water admires / Is the slapstick rush of things melting’

small lines on the great earth by filmmaker artist and filmmaker Edward O’Donnelly with poet and writer Malcolm Ritchie who lives and works on the island of Arran was filmed there in one day in short, condensed one-take sequences, echoing the brevity and spontaneity of each poem. Edward O’Donnelly’s previous work includes editing a series of short films documenting cultural links between Kolkata, India and Scotland with artist Kenny Munro. Titles: ‘Language of Rivers and Leaves”, linking Sir Patrick Geddes with Rabindranath Tagore. Malcolm Ritchie’s Poetry includes some small lines on the great earth and in these lines is my reclusion, both published by Longhouse Publishing, Vermont.

Two films by Alessandro Tedde, filmmaker and co-founder of the first open school of cinema in Italy of readings by two Italian poets, Giuseppe Bellosi and Nevio Spadoni. The first was filmed in the library of Sala d’Attorre, Ravenna before a public lecture, and the second was shot on the stage of Rasi Theater in Ravenna, the apse of a former church built in 1250. Both films were made exclusively to be screened at StAnza 2014. Alessandro Tedde’s first official short, Paths of Memory, was screened at various Italian festivals, and 2011 with his brother Francesco he created a project on seven DVDs about the Italian region of Romagna, its poets and its past.

A Poet’s Life is about Dutch poet Arnold Jansen op de Haar. In 1994, before the fall of the Srebrenica enclave he was on active service in the former Yugoslavia as the commanding officer of a UN unit. He left the Dutch Grenadier Guards in 1995 to become a full-time poet and columnist. He has been a columnist for more than ten years and writes a weekly column for Holland Park Press. His new poetry collection Loving Mercilessly (Meedogenloos Liefhebben) will be published in the autumn of 2014. The film was made by Holland Park Press which publishes literary fiction and poetry with emphasis on promoting Dutch authors to the English language world

Tasting Notes: Poet Matthew Stewart lives in Extremadura, Spain, where he works as the export manager and blender for a local winery, VinaOliva. In the film the poet reads poems amongst the vineyards. His collection Tasting Notes from HappenStance Press was launched in London at the Poetry Book Fair. It was a unique launch, in that the poetry about wine was delivered as the audience tasted the wine itself.

Ours thanks to The Poetry Society, Alastair Cook, Edward O’Donnelly, Malcolm Ritchie, Alessandro Tedde, Silvana Siviero, Matthew Stewart and Holland Park Press.

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