Tag Archives: Kei Miller

A message from Aldeburgh …

3 Nov

Screenshot 2015-11-03 13.02.41

While we’ll be revealing the programme for our next StAnza festival later this month, our sister festival in Aldeburgh starts later this week.  We’re delighted to be sharing this message from their new Festival Director, Ellen McAteer, for whom this will be her first festival in post.


I left Scotland to take over the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival just after a revolution. At least that’s how it felt to be there during the referendum, whatever the result and whatever you voted for. People were speaking up for what they believed in. They were exercising their right to freedom.

At last year’s Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, Kathleen Jamie broke the silence on what had happened in Scotland the month before by reading a series of poems on what the year leading up to the referendum had meant for her. She left the crowd cheering by pointing out that those in England had the same freedom to express their concerns to Westminster: ‘that was just a bunch of sweaty overexcited jocks,’ she joked, ‘imagine what you can do!’

A year later and the 27th Aldeburgh Poetry Festival is upon us, with a theme of Poetry and Freedom. There will be a good representative number of Scots born, raised and by adoption there – John Burnside, Kei Miller, Gerry Loose, Morven Gregor, Christie Williamson, Anna Crowe, Hazel Frew, JL Williams – and course Jim Carruth is shortlisted for the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize – the first Scottish poet published by a Scottish publisher to be so, as far as I know! But there will also be voices for freedom from across the UK and around the globe: Mexican poet Pedro Serrano, Kurdish poet Choman Hardi, Jane Duran from Cuba via Canada, Kim Addonizio and Tony Hoagland from the US, and Valerie Rouzeau from France, as well as YouTube sensation and speaker on freedoms from immigration to breast feeding Hollie McNish, and speaker in various tongues Zaffar Kunial. Joanne Limburg will be turning children and adults Bookside Down, Dorothea Smarrt will be telling tales of ‘queer goings on’, Jack Rooke will be putting the ‘good’ back into ‘grief’ and Jeremy Reed will be keeping it rock and roll.

This has been a year of terrifying freedom and change at the Poetry Trust, and the outcome of the consequent revolution is still to be decided. Come and join the conversation. Vote with your feet. There will be debates, discussions and an open mic – we are all about freedom of speech this year. From across the (un-)United Kingdom and further borders drawn and re-drawn, a gathering of poets will come to the Suffolk Coast on November 6th-8th to demonstrate that poetry IS freedom, in its purest expression.

Ellen McAteer

Aldeburgh Festival Director


More information available online at https://tickets.aldeburgh.co.uk/Online/2015_poetry_festival


Top picks and pix post-festival

22 Mar
StAnza 2015 launch, photo by www.alistairkerr.com

StAnza 2015 launch, photo by http://www.alistairkerr.com


“SAnza for me always helps usher winter into the dark, and marks a door opening into the bigger light of spring.”

With so many wonderful things already said or written about StAnza 2015 it’s hard to pick favourites but this quote from Gerry Cambridge’s Facebook post has to be amongst them.

Two weeks on and with the sun still shining and spring well and truly sprung, here at StAnza HQ we are still recovering from the wonderful buzz of the festival, so we have our feet up and a cup of tea in one hand as with the other we browse through the reviews and photographs which are piling up. A full Afterword with galleries of photographs and links will follow in due course – including, fingers crossed, the text from Glyn Maxwell’s sell-out lecture – but meantime we thought you might enjoy a sample of photographs plus links to various articles, reviews and blog posts already brought to our attention. If you know of more, do let us know. If you were at this StAnza this year we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did and thanks for coming to be part of it. If you didn’t make it this year, here’s just a glimpse of what you missed. And there’s always next year. Meantime, before the links, here’s another quote, this time from Kei Miller:

What an incredible festival StAnza continues to be! An overwhelming experience all around, the readings, the friendships, the wine – but the moment that I think will stay with me, the moment when for some inexplicable reason I choked up and had to look away, was the moment when the Catalan poet Josep Lluís Aguiló talked about the ‘small’ language he wrote in: ‘I have no choice in the matter’ he said, and then turning to his translator continued with such astounding vulnerability, perhaps unintentional but so to the point of it all…. ‘I am in your hands.’

And so to the links. First of all, here’s a brilliant video collage of images from the opening night, from photographer Alistair Kerr.

StAnza 2015 opening night video by Alistair Kerr

The inspiring StAnza poetry festival: The Scotsman review by Susan Mansfield

Risk A Verse, photo by Helena Fornells

Risk A Verse, photo by Helena Fornells

Review of StAnza 2015: Scotsman review by Susan Mansfield

Why we need more poetry events like StAnza, by Charlotte Runcie in The List

Kei Miller comes home, by Charlotte Runcie in The List

StAnza 2015 – Simon Armitage, one of Britain’s best, by Charlotte Runcie in The List

StAnza 2015 – Helen Mort, by Charlotte Runcie in The List

StAnza 2015: Mothers Day – why we need more great writing about being a mother, by Charlotte Runcie, The List

At the festival hub, by Alice Roberts

At the festival hub, by Alice Roberts

The Ferocity of Festivals by Helena Nelson

StAnza Poetry Cafe with Owen O’Neill, by Paul Thompson, The Mumble

StAnza Poetry Cafe with Erin Fornoff, by Paul Thompson, The Mumble

StAnza Body Searches, by Paul Thompson, The Mumble

Stepping it out at the festival finale, photo by Terry Lee

Stepping it out at the festival finale, photo by Terry Lee

StAnza Border Crossing, by Paul Thompson, The Mumble

StAnza Poetry Cafe with Torok & Campion, by Paul Thompson, The Mumble

StAnza 2015, by Elizabeth Rimmer, Burned Thumb

StAnza 2015, by Colin Will, Sunny Dunny

StAnza 2015 erasure, the FCA&C blog

StAnza 2015, by Sarah Hymas







An Archipelago of Poetry

8 Mar

I have a theory of festivals, copyright to me, so don’t steal it,” said Eleanor Livingstone—our Festival Director—the other night at dinner. (No points for guessing what I’m about to write about.)

Her theory is that a festival like StAnza, with so many events in such a short space of time, gains its character from the connections that form between the readings. A workshop about the difficulties of translation will illuminate a Border Crossings presenting a poet in translation, of course, but a lot of the time the connections are more unpredictable here.

A metaphor in the morning might resonate with a totally different poet and poem in the afternoon, say. The compare and contrast improves your experience of both… For example, I was struck how both Simon Armitage and Toby Campion—poets otherwise extremely contrasting—both used public announcements on transport as a poetic device to critique similar themes of social injustice. Who knew?

StAnza and the Byre are just one island of poetry among the archipelago of poetry festivals that take place worldwide. We’re honoured to host many international poets, of course, but also programmers and artistic directors who run other poetry festivals. The connections they make here at StAnza spiral outwards—taking poets and their ideas to read, share, and make more connections all over Europe.

One StAnza connection was between poet Jon Ståle Ritland and media artist Michiel Koelink, who met at StAnza in 2012 [check] and found that their practices were well-suited to each other.

Jon’s poetry is often laid out to be read in different directions, in three columns that can be read together as a whole or individually to make subpoems. Michiel’s PoetryMachine, similarly, presents a solar system of poetic fragments revolving, tied down by elastic strings and thrown apart by gravitational repulsion.

The multiple reading paths this creates fits well with Jon’s BodySearches. Jon and Michiel presented their collaboration at StAnza this Saturday. They used the PoetryMachine to typeset Jon’s poems in three-dimensional space – you can view and download the results here. The next step for them, they say, is to think about what a poem designed in three dimensions instead of two might be.

Watching the poems revolve about themselves on the projector screens in the Byre, I am struck by how much like Eleanor’s idea of a poetry festival they are…

and the eyes spring up

and one unknown

All poets are islands, said Bill Manhire, with apologies to Donne. But at festivals like this one we see how they’re animated by the pull of the lines between them. Even a brief look at the #StAnza15 feed on Twitter shows a huge variety of new relationships formed, old friends reconnected, and the beginnings of new ideas squeezed out by the collision of poems.

As Kei Miller commented at Saturday morning’s Poetry Breakfast, asked about the theme of the sea in Jamaican poetry: the sea is not what separates our islands, but what brings them together.

StAnza 2015 live online today, be sure to tune in!

7 Mar

Watch StAnza 2015 live on your pc, laptop, ipad, tablet, smartphone, whatever and wherever you are, 10am today and 10am tomorrow




This morning join Kei Miller, Bill Manhire, Kim Simonsen and Christine De Luca


StAnza 2015 Pre-Fest Book Group

13 Jan

Kei Miller (photo by Christine Fourie)

Kei Miller (photo by Christine Fourie)

With tickets for StAnza 2015 now on sale, more good news for poetry lovers living in and around St Andrews. We are delighted that once again in association with the University of St Andrews’ Open Association, we are offering free places at our pre-festival Poetry Book Group sessions. Introduced for the first time three years ago in the run up to StAnza 2012, they have been very popular over the last three years and make a very welcome return this year. They allow people the chance to read and talk about some of the poets who will feature at StAnza 2014, including Simon Armitage, Carolyn Forché and Kei Miller.

As before, there will be three sessions, the first taking place on Wednesday 28th January, and two further sessions will take place on Wednesdays 11th and 25th February.

Christian Livermore from the University’s School of English will again lead these three early evening sessions from 5.30pm-7.30pm on Wednesdays in the Conference Room at St Katherine’s West at 16 The Scores, St Andrews KY16 9AX. To book a free place and for information on the poems to be discussed, contact Debbie Wilbraham on 01333 462275 or open.association@st-andrews, or just turn up at one or more of the sessions.

More information can be found at online at http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/media/study/documents/non-degree/open-association-brochure.pdf

And watch out for more news coming very soon about this year’s festival preview events.

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)


Poetry Parnassus

10 Jun

It’s not all going to be sport in London this summer. The Southbank Centre are hosting Poetry Parnassus from 26th June to 1st July, the UK’s largest ever gathering of the world’s poets. If you are going to be in or near London later this month, be sure not to miss this huge turn out of poets from across the globe – more than 200 and as far as possible one to represent every olympic country – as they give readings and masterclass workshops. The line up includes big names such as Simon Armitage, Seamus Heaney and Wole Soyinka along with many others from far and near who have taken the StAnza stage, such as Nikola Madzirov from Macedonia and Tusiata Avia from Samoa who both took part in StAnza 2012, two of our previous Poets in Residence, Kei Miller representing Jamaica and Bill Manhire from New Zealand; and from earlier festivals Canada’s Karen Solie, Soleiman Adel Guemar from Algeria, Yang Lian (China), Pia Tadrupf (Denmark), Jack Mapanje (Malawi), Imtiaz Dharker (Pakistan) and Jo Shapcott representing Britain. You can see the list of some of those already chosen here .  More names have been added recently to that list, however the Poetry Parnassus team are still looking for suggestions for a few more countries, such as Liechtenstein, so if anyone has any ideas, they’d be pleased to hear them.  There will be the chance to get involved with over 100 free events and activities, full details of which can be found on the Poetry Parnassus website. The programme includes on Tuesday 26th June a World Poetry Summit at which StAnza’s director Eleanor Livingstone will be taking part to talk about StAnza’s digital festivals and events.

Tusiata Avia at StAnza 2012 (photo by Al Buntin)

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