Tag Archives: Jackie Kay

Poetry Illuminated

21 Oct

The Luminate Festival, a celebration of creative ageing, is taking place across Scotland this month. Last Sunday StAnza’s Festival Director, Eleanor Livingstone, was one of the judges at the second Luminate Slam in Edinburgh, and there’s plenty more poetry on offer elsewhere from Luminate over the coming week.

Next Tuesday in Edinburgh, poets from Grey Hen Press, which publishes women aged 50 and over, will be reading at 6pm Blackwells.

On Wednesday 23rd October, Jackie Kay, always a StAnza favourite, is in Fife reading at 7pm at Lochgelly Centre, with tickets priced £8.00 (concession £5). Jackie, whose portrait features in Joyce Gunn Cairns Creative Ageing exhibition, will introduce her work and reads extracts from her stories and poems which explore themes of ageing. Her selection includes passages from her most recent collection of short stories Reality Reality. Book at the venue, online at www.onfife.com or call 01592 583303

And then on Thursday 24th October, there will be a midday reading at the Glasgow Women’s Library as a celebration of older women poets, including poems published by Grey Hen Press.

More information on all the events is available at the following links:

A feast of poetry at the EIBF

14 Aug

The Edinburgh International Book Festival is now under way and there is plenty for poetry lovers to enjoy.  If you’re quick, you can get along to sample today’s showcase of new poets while later in the month there’s a chance to see Liz Lochhead,  Jackie Kay, Robin Robertson and Luke Wright, who have all appeared at StAnza  to great acclaim. Also not to be missed is a reading by the great US poet Kay Ryan, David Campbell’s story of traveller Duncan Williamson, the launch of the new Edwin Morgan Poetry Prize, Andrew Greig’s retelling of a border ballad, ‘Fair Helen’ and the poems and music of the Egyptian revolution.

Details for some of the events are below. Click here for the full line up of poetry events and to book tickets.

Miriam Gamble, Sam Riviere & Jo L Walton
21st Century Poetry
Wednesday 14 August 2:00pm – 3:00pm
Baillie Gifford Corner Theatre
£7.00, £5.00

Dear World & Everyone In It is a new anthology announcing the best young voices of British poetry. Stylistically innovative, thematically challenging, always creative and often surprising, it’s a unique collection presenting the work of 60 poets. Editor Nathan Hamilton presents a selection of the work in this event: Sam Riviere with his debut 81 Austerities, Jo L Walton and Miriam Gamble.

Jackie KayJackie Kay & Matthew Kay
Poetry and the Fight for Human Rights
The Amnesty International Event
Friday 16 August 4:30pm – 5:30pm
Baillie Gifford Main Theatre
£10.00, £8.00

Jackie Kay’s new poems about asylum seekers in Glasgow point up the importance of artistic and cultural contributions to political life. In this event Kay discusses her work with her filmmaker son Matthew Kay. He recently took a British football team to Palestine, where poetry is also a vital part of the culture of resistance, and today he shows an extract from the extraordinary documentary he made.

Andrew Wilson
Plath Before Hughes
Friday 16 August 5:00pm – 6:00pm
ScottishPower Studio Theatre
£10.00, £8.00
Before she met Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath had lived a complex, creative and disturbing life. Following her death in 1963, Hughes was the guardian and literary executor of her work and was, in effect, responsible for how she has been perceived by generations. Andrew Wilson explores the woman before the haunting poetry and sensational relationship that so greatly changed our cultural landscape.

K_1469_fsMichael Pedersen & Luke Wright
Poems Like Pointing Fingers
Friday 16 August 8:30pm – 9:30pm
Baillie Gifford Corner Theatre
£7.00, £5.00
A new breed of poets is storming the spoken word scene and entertaining a generation for which Big Brother is a reality TV show as well as an Orwellian literary invention. Michael Pedersen, co-organiser of Edinburgh live poetry night Neu! Reekie! reads from Play with Me, while Essex-born Luke Wright, whose 5-star performances have wowed Fringe-goers, performs from his joyful new tome, Mondeo Man.

Robertson,Robin_credit Niall McDiarmidRobin Robertson
I Steer Towards Catastrophe / Then Write About it
Sunday 18 August 10:15am – 11:15am
The Guardian Spiegeltent
£10.00, £8.00
Hill of Doors is Robin Robertson’s sixth poetry collection and his most powerfully assured yet. In its verse, he dives deep into the complexities of the human condition and then rains depth charges down upon himself. Robertson splices the sensitive and the brutish; mixes the mythical with the real; and in the process he confirms that he’s a superstar of Scottish poetry. Free coffee, courtesy of Prestige Scotland


Sunday 18 August

6:45pm – 7:45pm

Peppers Theatre

£10.00, £8.00

Three years after his death in 2010, Edwin Morgan’s memory burns brightly. In accordance with Morgan’s wishes, a major new prize for Scottish poets is announced at the Book Festival to build upon the previous poetry competition run in Morgan’s name. In this event chaired by Liz Lochhead, previous winners – Jen Hadfield, Paul Batchelor and Jane McKie – read their work and discuss the challenges of putting together a first collection.

Kay Ryan
Former US Poet Laureate
Sunday 18 August 5:00pm – 6:00pm
ScottishPower Studio Theatre
£10.00, £8.00
Kay Ryan is widely regarded as one of America’s great living poets. Her book The Best of It: New and Selected Poems won her the Pulitzer Prize in 2011, and she was the US Poet Laureate from 2008-2010. However, despite the plaudits, Ryan is no creature of the establishment: she once said ‘it’s poetry’s uselessness that excites me.’ She joins us to read some of her work.

David Campbell & Linda Williamson
Reigniting a Traveller’s Tale
Monday 19 August 3:30pm – 4:30pm
Writers’ Retreat
£7.00, £5.00
David Campbell’s subject is Duncan Williamson, born in a Loch Fyne tent in 1928, surrounded by storytellers and musicians. A Traveller in Two Worlds tells of Williamson’s remarkable life (he had two wives, ten children and wrote many stories) and the attempts to get his work about the traveller community to a wider public. Campbell is joined by Linda, Williamson’s second wife and an ardent activist in keeping his memory and writings alive.

b90442e0Andrew Grieg & Rachel Newton

Reimagining Border Ballads

Saturday 24 August

8:30pm – 9:30pm

ScottishPower Studio Theatre

£10.00, £8.00

Stirling-born writer and poet Andrew Greig returns with a new publication inspired by the history and landscape of Scotland. Fair Helen is a retelling of a 16th century Border Ballad, ‘Fair Helen of Kirkconnel Lea’. Inspired by the tradition of sung narrative ballads, Greig is joined by acclaimed musician Rachel Newton, who performs several songs and provides fiddle accompaniment to Greig’s reading from his new novel.

Poetry from the Egyptian Revolution
Poems and Music in Tahrir Square
Sunday 25 August 8:30pm – 9:30pm
ScottishPower Studio Theatre
£10.00, £8.00
At the heart of the Egyptian revolution were the events in Tahrir Square. During the riots, Amin Haddad wrote poetry which the protestors spoke or sang together for moral support. Haddad joins us from Cairo with members of the revolutionary band, Eskenderella, whose musical rendering of Haddad’s poems gave support to the protestors. They reprise – in a rare European appearance – the verse that was the immediate response to the uprising.

StAnza on film: the story behind our 2012 documentary

22 Aug

On 20 August, StAnza officially launched its new documentary film of this year’s festival. The film has recently been previewed on YouTube, Facebook and has been uploaded on StAnza’s website, but this was the first time it had been screened in front of a live audience: during the ‘St Andrews Year of Celebration’ showcase at Creative Scotland, Waverley Gate.

The project had its beginnings when Eleanor Livingstone, Director of StAnza: Scotland’s International Poetry Festival commissioned the filmmaker Daniel Warren to make a short documentary of the 2012 festival. The festival is grateful for the help of EventScotland who provided funding.

‘We wanted to capture the essence of the festival on film, to give a flavour of how lively and diverse it can be, in the stunning setting of St Andrews,’ Eleanor says. ‘With our vibrant hub at the Byre Theatre, StAnza has a unique, welcoming atmosphere and the film is a visual record of that.’

Daniel came to St Andrews for the festival (which took place 14-18 March) and, with the assistance of Ishbel Beeson, filmed poets in live readings and performances, on stage and behind the scenes. He interviewed poets, artists, musicians and festival-goers, took in the sights and sounds of the town itself and the result was an intriguing insight into the festival.

The film is structured as ‘a day in the life of StAnza’, opening with the arrival of visitors at the rail station of Leuchars. The camera takes the viewer around town and through many events from art exhibitions, an open mic in a local café, to centre stage readings and performances and talks by, among others, Jackie Kay, Jo Bell,  actor Karen Dunbar, Kwame Dawes, Tony Curtis and Robin Cairns. As the sun goes down, the party atmosphere at the Byre gets – literally – into full swing with music from the Mending Hearts Trio.

Poetry turns up in unexpected guises: on Poetry Digest’s biscuits and bananas, as labels attached to whisky bottles in Ken Cockburn and Alec Finlay’s collaboration, The Road North, and slowly appearing under the chisel of patient stone carver John Neilson. Then there’s the bartender who bursts into a recitation of Tam O’ Shanter; poetic ‘Clanger speak’ from Andy Jackson during the launch of his TV and film inspired anthology, and slam champion Robin Cairns. The film shows how poetry can inspire other art forms, and become by turns humorous, experimental, crowd pleasing, celebratory and thought-provoking.

Eleanor Livingstone says of the film: ‘The title is taken from a story told by Jackie Kay during her performance. Her son, on hearing that his mother was “going out to the poetry’’, used to ask where this place called poetry was. StAnza – and St Andrews – she joked was certainly one of these places. The film successfully captures the humour, charm and the sense of community created by StAnza and by St Andrews.’

You can view the film on StAnza’s website: http://www.stanzapoetry.org/

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

Jubilee Lines

17 Jun

There’s much to enjoy in Faber and Faber’s new anthology, Jubilee Lines – 60 Poets for 60 Years, edited by Carol Ann Duffy.  Each of the last 60 years is represented by one poem and one poet, many of them very familiar names. Just four poems in, for 1956 there’s Class Photograph from Douglas Dunn, looking back at “pensioners in disguise”. And the roll call from StAnza 2012 just past includes Grace Nichols (1965), Christopher Reid offering “The Clearing for 1969, followed by John Burnside (1981), Robert Crawford (1984), Lachlan Mackinnon (1988), Michael Symmons Roberts (1996), Don Paterson (1997), Jackie Kay (1999) and Lavinia Greenlaw (2001).  

To accompany the book, Faber and Faber have collaborated with  Somethin’ Else and The Space to produce a groundbreaking interactive digital platform, which brings together actors’ readings, sound-based generative design and archive footage to create an exciting new way to experience poetry. At its heart are audio readings of the poems in Jubilee Lines, read evocatively by distinguished actors Dan Stevens, Samantha Bond, Lyndsey Marshal and Alex Lanipekun. Graphic designer Stefanie Posavec has produced visualisations of the audio readings using generative design techniques. Derived from characteristics such as the length of the recording and its decibel level, she has created unique artworks for each of the 60 poems.

The twenty poems that most vividly evoke our collective memory are enhanced with rich archive material, including film footage and audio uncovered in the BBC and British Movietone archives, as well as newspapers, adverts and photographs. It includes many items transferred from telecine for the first time, with material that ranges from the iconic (Michael Fish’s weather report in 1987), to the unseen (Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova preparing for her first space flight in 1963), and from the jubilant (children eagerly awaiting the end of sweet rationing in 1953) to the turbulent (miners clashing with police during the strike in 1984).

We are invited to navigate the poems by year, by poet, through archive or by theme (eg. remembrance, identity, vigilance), plotting your own path through 60 years of history, by going to their website at  www.jubileelines.com

(NB  at the time of posting this the link doesn’t seem to be working, we have let them know.)

Stephanie Green: Tea, cakes and a chat with Jackie Kay; the art of the two Ruaridhs

17 Mar

‘The lovers are caught with their

tea-cups and champagne’- Lavinia Greenlaw.

This verse, was printed on the icing of one of the empire biscuits on offer round  the highways and byways of the festival- a novel way to digest poetry.

Not champagne but fizz enough was to be had yesterday, having  ‘Afternoon Tea with Jackie Kay’ – only 15 of us in the intimate setting of a sitting-room in the Albany Hotel – poetry readings and chat about the tricky sensitivities needed writing a memoir. This was the highlight of the festival for me so far: Jackie’s humour and humanity, cake on three-tiered plates and her cheery dog!

Today I also met up with another poet, Rody Gorman (below, right) and the artist, Derek Robertson (below, left) – the two  Ruaridhs. (Rory, Roderic/Derik/Rody all have the same Gaelic root) to talk about their collaborative project – poems and paintings.  The Image was foremost in my mind, given the festival’s theme- but the paintings are not merely illustrations of the poems, though the poems came first.  Derek told me they did not discuss the ‘meaning’ of the poems nor what each were doing.

Derek Robertson and Rody Gorman

Rather, I thought,  the process of collaboration was more like call and response, theme and variation.  Both were inspired by the landscape of Skye. Derek’s started off as watercolour washes up in Skye but later he superimposed very similar images from East Fife where he lives: broken down sheds, boats, sea-shore.  Both naturalistic and symbolic, the effect is like a palimpset, earlier images showing through, associations sparked off by the observed here and now- very much a toing and froing between past and present.

Rody’s  experimental ‘word amalgamations’ are a similar process:  all the possible associations and translations of a Gaelic word are given in the English.  This was not because of his experience as a translator, he told me, but came from his poet self.  A Gaelic speaker would be aware of all the associations of a word.

It was not a question of using the same image, more it was the process of creating images poet and painter had in common:  shape-shifting, the images morphing into each-other, images splintering, coming together in new combinations,  accretions of associations.

Both poet and painter take us on a walk through time and memory, accessed by the concrete image. I thought back to Lavinia’s workshop- accessing deep emotion through the image, the Simonides poetry/photography collaboration  and Robert Crawford’s comment ‘how poetry can make time collapse’.  The festival’s theme, exploring the Image, through the different media, makes me see a common thread – not just of Image but of emotion, time and memory.

Chrissy and Swithun put Icing on the Poetry Cake

10 Mar

Guest Bloggers, Chrissy Williams and Swithun Cooper are bringing their toothsome Poetry Digest to StAnza next week. Read on, and try not to feel hungry. We can’t wait.

When you’re wandering around StAnza’s weekend events, keep an eye out for Poetry Digest – an edible poetry magazine printed in “small cake” format, or small biscuit format as need arises. We’ll be handing out empire biscuits produced by Stuart’s of Buckhaven bearing poems by Isobel Dixon, Lavinia Greenlaw, Matthew Hollis, Christopher Reid and Jackie Kay. (As one contributor pointed out to us, this will really be a Jackie Cake.)

Poetry Digest was set up by Chrissy Williams and Swithun Cooper. If you visit the website you’ll see that we created it while working as revolutionary bakers as a way to fight Communism in an unnamed Eastern European country. That’s a lie, unfortunately. Really we work at the Poetry Library in London, and we thought it up as something to do on National Poetry Day: putting an e.e. cummings poem on cakes for our colleagues, so they could carry it in their stomachs.

After this photograph of it got round Twitter, we were asked to produce a few for other poetry events – including ‘Feast on Words’ by Poet in the City, a workshop group at the Southbank Centre, and a “reading and eating” for young members of The Poetry Society . Since then, it’s turned into a cake-based events series, which we’ve subsequently developed into a magazine. Our aim is to give people an entertaining (and tasty) alternative to the sometimes gruelling business of submitting poems to magazines – sending them off, waiting for months, and finally having a poem printed somewhere. Putting a poem on a cake seems a more light-hearted way of getting your work appreciated, and the large amounts of sugar and frosting in every poem keeps our readings sociable and high-spirited.

We’ve now made three issues of Poetry Digest – ‘Raisin D’Etre’, ‘The Big Apple’ and ‘Berried Alive’ – and poems by the likes of Tom Chivers, Tim Wells, Claire Trévien, Jacqueline Saphra and Simon Barraclough have all appeared on foodstuffs we’ve produced. We’ve done readings with Liz Berry and Victoria Bean, and we ran a competition (‘The Limelight’) for the Young Poets Network .

During StAnza you’ll mostly find us at the Poets Market, where we’ll also have some fruit available for those who prefer their sugar unrefined, but we can also be found at a few other events, including the Saturday and Sunday Poetry Breakfasts and the Festival Finale.

We invite you to join us in eating the poets’ words.

Our thanks to Swithun and Chrissy. Chrissy’s own blog is at chrissywilliams.blogspot.com

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