Tag Archives: Lavinia Greenlaw

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

Poetry at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, 11-24 August

8 Aug

The marquees are almost complete in Charlotte Square which means that the Edinburgh International Book Festival is about to kick off – it opens this Saturday 11th August. And there is a poetry strand this year that has many pleasures to offer including readings by three Makars, some startling new voices and a chance to see some favourite names from StAnzas past.

There’s a rare appearance by the wonderful Alice Oswald, (pictured left), a chance to catch up with StAnza 2012 Poet-in-Residence, Lavinia Greenlaw (here reading with American poet Marie Howe), and readings by Paul Durcan, Don Paterson, Ruth Padel, and Aonghas MacNeacail. Not to be missed are Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, Scotland’s Makar, Liz Lochhead, and Edinburgh’s Makar, Ron Butlin.

Sample the talents of the rising stars: William Letford, (left, below)the outstanding new poet who delighted us at StAnza in 2011, will be appearing with Sean Borodale. And the winner of the Edwin Morgan Prize, which is aimed at encouraging new poets, will be announced at a gala reading by all those shortlisted.

There’s also the unpredictable and fast moving Impro-Slam, featuring top performance poets. Alan Gillis heads up a lively discussion panel on Poetry & Ideas, exploring the experimental aspects of contemporary poetry. On a more celebratory note, Bashabi Fraser unites the the Ganga and the Tay in a celebration of Scottish and Indian poetry and music.

And, contrary to the myth that everything at EIBF is irrevocably sold out within minutes, there are tickets available for these events.  Don’t hesitate too long though.

The Edinburgh International Book Festival takes place in Charlotte Square Gardens from the 11 – 27 August. To view the full programme of Book Festival events please visit www.edbookfest.co.uk.

Tickets for all events can be booked:

Online: www.edbookfest.co.uk

By phone: 0845 373 5888

In person – until the 10 Aug: at The Hub on Castlehill, Edinburgh, EH1 2NE

In person – once the Festival has opened on the 11 Aug: on site in Charlotte Square Gardens in the Entrance Tent

Photograph of William Letford by Seppi Preston

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.)

Festival Blog: Day Two, Stephanie Green on poetic larceny

17 Mar

Stephanie attended Kwame Dawes’s workshop on Thursday and followed it with other StAnzaesque visual adventures:

Thieves, Liars, Pedlars and Soldiers – and Poets. 

I never thought I’d be incited to a life of crime today but this is what happened.  ‘If you have a great sense of morality about this Grand Larceny, best leave the workshop now’, said Kwame Dawes.  As T.S.Eliot put it – second-rate poets borrow, good poets steal.  But as Kwame said, ‘steal but go to town on it.’  In other words , make something of your own.

This was a workshop about the Ekphrastic – writing poetry inspired by art – my second workshop in a row, phew, but I needn’t have worried. Kwame, who has great warmth and personality made it fun and I left the workshop with a notebook full of approaches  to try out later. It won’t just be art students propping their easels in front of Old Masters in galleries now but poets brandishing notebook and pen- speed-writing, gleaning images to make into something rich and strange later. (Echoes of Lavinia’s workshop at Balmungo House – the image, the image.)

I decided to put Kwame’s theories to the test by catching up with other art installations/exhibitions –  poetry inspired by photos or conversely photos inspired by poets.  Co-incidentally our workshop took place in the Town Library surrounded by Norman McBeath’s photos:  Creative Capture: photos and a poem each of 6 poets who have been are still teaching at St Andrew’s University. What a roll-call: Douglas Dunn (recently retired), John Burnside, Robert Crawford, Kathleen Jamie (now at Stirling Uni) Don Paterson and the latest arrival at St A, Jacob Polley.

These are studio portraits – not the open-mouthed poet in performance, obscured by a mic nor Flickr  off-stage unguarded moments, blurred or blinking. I think I might just hang up my camera straps. Be that as it may, these are seriously good photos – black and white, portraits in depth. It’s interesting to muse though, how much the photos catch the personality of each poet or whether it reflects or contradicts the persona revealed in each poet’s poem.  It must have been hard to select just one poem. I hardly dare say each has the poet’s ‘voice’ since I know Don P says that concept is a nonsense – every poem has its own voice – but all the poems chosen  are instantly recognizable as that poet’s.   I’m not sure all the photos caught that elusive something of the poet’s personality. My favourite photo and poem pairings were of Kathleen Jamie, looking quizzical and her poem ‘Speirin’ and Don Paterson’s looking Noirish with his Film Noir-like poem ‘Rain’.

You can see these photos online via  Echoes from the Vault.

Dan Phillips was last year’s artist in residence and his photo  portraits of poets performing, with much emphasis on hands, hands gesturing, jazz hands, hands to lean books on, are on show in the Byre’s Bistro and Bar. I recognized Jo Bell, John Glenday, Lorna Callery amongst others. They could not be more different from McBeath’s. For the OTT, look at the portrait of  Bob Holman, New York’s performance star, with our own American born/currently Scottish-based Ryan van Winkle

So wherever you go in St A this year there are photographs – the most stunning exhibition of all has to be Simonides’ poetry and Robert Crawford’s translations into raw Scots and English, alongside Norman MacBeath’s photos. I have blogged about the latter when the exhibition was shown at Edinburgh Art College as part of the Edinburgh International Festival last summer (2011).

It was the most interesting art installation of the EIF for me and terrific  to see it again here at StAnza. A sombre note to the festival but if you only come for one thing it should be this heart-stopping exhibition , both photos and poems.  There is no body bag installation as at ECA, though as Crawford has said, the poems themselves are little ‘body bags’ – memories of the dead- recollections of what is lost.

Photography is obviously a big component of StAnza this year.  And St Andrew’s University has an amazing special collection of early photography – it could be said to be the poetic hub of Scotland. But more of that serendipity (No, obviously well thought-out planning) over the weekend.

Festival Blog: Stephanie Green at Balmungo House, Day One, 14 March

16 Mar

What a treat: an all day workshop with poet Lavinia Greenlaw in the beautiful surroundings of the Georgian Balmungo House, just outside St Andrew’s.   Lovingly restored, the exterior of the house is primrose yellow set in woodlands. And as it is spring, swathes of  daffodils scattered under the trees and a lawn framed by the graceful branches of an old larch is the peaceful view we will have during the day and a retreat to wander in the lunch break.   This is the perfect spot for a workshop on the ‘Image’ and links between art and poetry for this was the house of an artist, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, one of the St Ives set.

Willie, as she liked to be called, sounds fascinating – battling against a Victorian father who did not want her to got to Art School, she finally made it, with the help of her aunt who eventually willed her this house. The St Ives and Scottish link made me think of another one – that of the author, peace activist and philanthropist, Margaret Gardiner (1904-2005) and her collection of St Ives’ artists’ work bequeathed to the Pier Art Gallery in Orkney, including Barbara Hepworths- there must be something about the sharp, clear light of Cornwall and N.E. Scotland/Orkney, which inspires  affinities with both places.

Inside Balmungo,  dove-grey walls are a perfect foil to the bold colours of Willie’s abstracts  on display. The first that meets your eye is the vibrant blue of the hall carpet which was woven by Doocot Studios based on one of her screen prints.   It is amazing to think that many of the works were done in her eighties. She was immensely energetic, prolific and continued to experiment with new ideas and media to the end. An inspiration to us all.

Lavinia’s own interest in perception, especially in the work of Emily Dickinson and Elizabeth Bishop, both poets famed for their precise, evocative imagery,  and Lavinia’s own background in art history (she studied 17th century art at the Royal Academy) were particularly relevant.

She asked us to use Willie’s strategems for her art  to compose our own poetry.  Willie liked to impose restrictions on her palette or for instance, only using lines and circles, we were asked to use an image in our poem, but let the image speak for itself-any emotional back story to be unmentioned, only inferred.  During the eventual reading of work produced in the day, it was exciting to see how everyone ‘s  precise, clear imagery led to charged poems.

It was a fantastic day.  Beautiful house and grounds, fabulous art work and fabulous poems produced. What more could you ask?  Maybe that an all-day workshop at Balmungo becomes a fixture at StAnza!

Then rush, rush back to St A for supper, the Festival Opening and lots of jazz – three bands – an impressive student St Andrew’s saxophone quartet and yet more jazz in the main hall – the Dave Batchelor Quintet, ‘Kind of Larkin’ (as in Kind of Blue, of course to you jazzers who get the ref) – but what a miserable git Larkin was. The jazz was great though, including Don Paterson as jazz guitarist, not poet for a change.



Festival Blog: James on Day One: Launch Party, Kind of Larkin, Picks for Day Two

15 Mar

James T Harding is a freelance writer and, believe it or not, a StAnza newbie. We couldn’t resist asking him to be our festival blogger this year – casting a fresh eye on our activities in our 14th year. Here’s James’s take on the launch day, with photos from John Starr.



We Have Lift Off!

There were a lot of people at the launch party for StAnza last night. It was a bit scary, actually.

The first sign of trouble was the table of wine glasses set out by the lovely staff of the Byre Theatre.  In my naivety, I thought that the Byre were being a little over-zealous. I imagined the bar staff laying out that extra crate of glasses with a “better safe than sorry,” or maybe even a “we’ve carried them up the stairs now, we might as well use them.”

In the event, however, all of the wine glasses were needed. The Byre Theatre’s lobby was jam packed for the launch ceremony with Eleanor Livingstone, our Festival Director and Alastair Moffat, the new Rector of St Andrews University.

It turns out that not only do the Byre staff more than know what they are doing – which is hardly surprising – but that the StAnza festival is going to bigger and better than ever before. Which isn’t actually very surprising either.

As well as an abundance of applause and glasses clinking – and the exciting announcement that the StAnza archives are to be looked after by the University of St Andrews Library – we were treated to poems from Lavinia Greenlaw and Kwame Dawes.

Lavinia came down to the Byre after her all-day poetry workshop at Balmungo House (I’m told it’s a sort of architectural Mecca of country houses) to read us “Cutter”, a poem about poetry. “I normally apologise for reading a poem about poetry,” said Lavinia, “but I don’t think I need to do that here.”

Kwame Dawes performed “Elegy for Herouy”, warning the audience that he doesn’t perform it very often so it might be a little rusty. It was brilliant, of course.

Kind of Larkin

I’m not going to lie to you, there were a few stragglers who stayed in the Byre lobby to polish off the remains of the launch wine, but most people headed into the Auditorium to hear David Hayman and the Dave Batchelor Quintet perform Kind of Larkin.

You can hear a teensy clip of Larkin’s thoughts on the blues here:

In the red corner we have Phillip Larkin, jazz critic for the Telegraph – known to StAnza heads for his poetry of course. In the blue corner we have… modern jazz.

Poor modern jazz doesn’t get much of a chance to defend itself against Larkin’s “I still can’t imagine how anyone could listen to a Coltrane record for pleasure!”and other gems.

The Dave Batchelor Quintet managed to hold their own with their impersonations of everyone from Armstrong to the Bird. The drummer in particular was really having fun with the set.

Picks for Day Two

Lavinia Greenlaw is giving a lecture on rhetoric in poetry (and poetry in rhetoric?) at 3.30pm today that I’m particularly looking forward to.

John Burnside, whom I last saw at the prize readings for this year’s T.S. Elliot Prize, is giving a round table reading at 3.45pm which will no doubt be a highlight for the lucky few who managed to grab tickets.

I’ll certainly be at the Poetry Café this evening, which is presented in conjunction with the year-round Thursday jazz night at the Byre.


Sadly, today’s blog post has come to an end…

Never fear! You can follow my Storify timeline of the pick of the pics, best links, tweets and boos surrounding StAnza here: http://storify.com/empowermint/stanza-scotland-s-international-poetry-festival-20-22 and join the StAnza conversation using #StAnza12.

I’m available for stalking at www.james-t-harding.com and on Twitter @empowermint.

Photos in this post were taken by John Starr, who also maintains a website at www.starrphotographic.com

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

Be inspired at StAnza’s festival workshops and classes

7 Jan

StAnza’s educational theme, Poetry by Degrees, has given us the chance to expand on opportunities for creative practice. The festival programme is packed with workshops, inspirational sessions and opportunities for both new and experienced poets to develop their work. The festival’s other main theme, The Image, will provide the impetus for both these practical events and for talks and discussions centred on the craft and the study of poetry. The theme is also part of the celebrations of the 600th anniversary of the University of St Andrews. Lavinia Greenlaw will be leading an all-day workshop at Balmungo House. Kwame Dawes (pictured) and John Glenday will be leading workshops respectively on poetic language and imagery. Glenday is a tutor at Moniack Mhor, the Scottish base of the Arvon Foundation, which is forming an outpost at StAnza 2012. Dawes is connected to the creative writing programme at the University of South Carolina. David Morley, founder of the University of Warwick writing programme, will be leading the StAnza Masterclass, which offers selected poets the chance to have their work discussed. Jo Bell, Director of National Poetry Day, will be heading a workshop on the power of using the negative.

To kick start the writing process, there are daily Inspire sessions at the Byre Theatre and lunchtime ‘Musings at MUSA’: a series of sessions at the Museum of the University of St Andrews, where writers are asked to respond to a treasure trove of artefacts from astrolabes to kaleidoscopes, all associated with the university. Both these events are free and participants are encouraged to submit copies of any resulting work for future display.

All this plus a range of chances to perform your work at open mics, the StAnza slam and music nights.

Find out more about these interactive events here. Tickets for StAnza go on sale next week, 11 January.

Photo of Kwame Dawes by Rachel Eliza Griffiths.

StAnza is part of the Year of Creative Scotland 2012.

StAnza 2012 focuses on The Image

3 Jan

StAnza’s theme, The Image  has inspired a series of unmissable events, exploring poetry’s relationship with the visual arts, film, tv, and photography. Here are just some of the highlights: Lavinia Greenlaw, the festival’s Poet-in-Residence, will be leading an all-day workshop, ‘Linked Forms’ at Balmungo House, formerly the home of artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham. Participants will draw inspiration from the house itself in its beautiful Fife setting and the artist’s works displayed there. St Andrews has strong links with the history of photography and this will be reflected in several ways at StAnza. Simonides: Body Bags, is a collaboration between poet Robert Crawford and photographer Norman McBeath, juxtaposing images and Scots versions of ancient Greek poems about war. Photographs by StAnza’s Photographer-in-Residence in 2011, Dan Phillips will present a visual record of the poet in performance. More about photographic and art exhibitions here. Photographs are also at the heart of ‘Whistle’, Martin Figuera’s harrowing yet humorous account of his tragic childhood, evoked through family snaps and memorabilia. StAnza has featured poetry films since 2007 and this year has expanded this strand to include to three major events. Psycho Poetica matches original poems and music, with scenes from Hitchcock’s classic. Alastair Cook’s Filmpoem live uses sound and vision to create a new art form: poetry readings and music accompany haunting, beautiful images. Split-Screen, a new anthology of poems inspired by TV programmes and films, which will be launched at StAnza, is a celebration of ways in which poetry has connected with the visual off and on the page. Find out more about these events here.

There also talks, workshops and readings devoted to the theme. Check our website for more details. Tickets go on sale 11 January.

Make plans for StAnza 2012: programme now online

22 Dec

With the Christmas and Hogmanay offering  us all the chance for a well-earned break, when better than to browse through the StAnza 2012 events programme? It’s now available online here

As well as the list of events already confirmed (and watch out for extra ones to be announced shortly), you can find out more about the poets, writers, artists, film makers and musicians who are taking part.  To whet your appetite, we have provided some biogs, sample poems, links and clips.

The Dave Batchelor Quintet will be celebrating jazz and Larkin

Headlining poets include Jackie Kay (pictured), Kathleen Jamie, Christopher Reid, Lavinia Greenlaw, Joe Dunthorne and Michael Symmons Roberts; from the USA, Chase Twichell and Kwame Dawes, plus international voices from Germany, South Africa, Poland, Macedonia and Sweden.

Meet Jackie Kay at StAnza 2012

The festival’s themes are The Image and Poetry by Degrees. Expect a wide range of events – exhibitions, a book launch and breakfast discussions – linking poetry with visual art and photography, TV and film. Check out StAnza’s celebration of poetry in education with an expanded range of workshops, inspire sessions and discussions.

Lively performances, drama and music are also a key aspect of the festival. Highlights include Karen Dunbar’s hilarious A Drunk Woman Looks at a Thistle and Kind of Larkin, a tribute to Philip Larkin’s love of jazz with the Dave Batchelor Quintet (pictured) – whose line-up, please notice, includes poet/musician Don Paterson.

Tickets will be on sale in January, so enjoy savouring the prospect of what’s to come.

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