Tag Archives: Rob A. Mackenzie

StAnza 2014 in words and images

2 Sep


So what were Rob Mackenzie’s 20 Moments from StAnza 2014? Why did time stop in the Undercroft for Helena Nelson? What did Tishani Doshi say about dogs, death and St Andrews in her column for the New Indian Express? And why did Ellen McAteer recommend attending StAnza as “the best thing you will do”.

As we approach the halfway mark between this year’s festival and next year’s, what better time to reflect on the popular and critical success of StAnza 2014.
The Afterword page is now live on our website at http://www.stanzapoetry.org/2014/afterword14.php. As ever there are galleries of photographs – a mixture of programmed events and all the encounters and experiences which always happen at StAnza in-between and around events – plus links to videos and podcasts from the festival and a wide range of articles and reviews, including those mentioned above. So if you were at this year’s festival, you can re-capture a flavour of it, see who else was there, get a sense of the atmosphere; and if you weren’t there, now you know what you missed!

Cypress Well (Jim Causley & Lukas Drinkwater), photographer Helena Fornells Nadal

Cypress Well (Jim Causley & Lukas Drinkwater), photographer Helena Fornells Nadal

Here at StAnza HQ we’ve hugely enjoyed reading all that’s been written about the festival, the articles and reviews, and also your feedback via the questionnaire forms you obligingly complete for us. We love to read how StAnza was for you and to learn that it is a favourite festival for so many. ‘A vintage year’ people said, perhaps with reference to the contemporary circus show with which we opened this year, or maybe Paul Muldoon’s final reading for the festival, or even the party which followed. Here are just a few of the other comments made:

‘Wonderful event, warm, friendly, relevant, provocative and held in a beautiful place.’

‘The festival was fantastic, I can’t imagine any better atmosphere for poetry than the one you so perfectly created.’

‘The breadth of vision of StAnza is good for us all!’

‘An annual treat – a feast of poetry in a wonderful setting.’

‘Truly international and an inspiring event. It’s a really important part of the poetry calendar.’

And as well as reading about StAnza, you can listen to podcast interviews with some of the poets who took part, including Brian Turner and Tanya Shirley, or watch video interviews with artist Lucilla Sim and Gill Plain who spoke in March about women’s poetry from WWI.

Tanya Shirley book signing,  photographer David Vallis

Tanya Shirley book signing,
photographer David Vallis

Our strand of events in recognition of the centenary of WW1 included David Constantine’s lecture on The First World War at Home and Abroad, about which many of you commented. We are therefore very pleased now to have been able to include a link to the text of this on the Afterword page on our website at http://www.stanzapoetry.org/2014/afterword14.php

Next year’s StAnza takes place 4-8 March at St Andrews.

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The SPL at StAnza 2014

21 Feb

JL WilliamsEach year StAnza collaborates in ways big and small with the Scottish Poetry Library, this year with the appearance at StAnza of Tanya Shirley. Jennifer Williams, the SPL Programme Manager, shares her thoughts about StAnza 2014.

I so enjoyed the StAnza Preview at tell it slant Poetry Bookshop in Glasgow on 6 February. (http://tellitslantbooks.com/2014/01/21/stanza-glasgow-2014-preview-mirrorball-seamus-heaney-event/)

What a pleasure to find myself at a delightful poetry bookshop, packed with people (standing room only by the time I got there) eating beautiful food from the café, drinking wine and chatting up a word storm, surrounded by shelves of poetry books and magazines. tell it slant is ‘popped-down’ for the moment but hopefully soon to return as a permanent fixture in Glasgow.

I love StAnza previews because they always seem to have the buzz about them that makes StAnza so delicious – full of poets and poetry lovers, everyone in a jolly frame of mind and talking about what they’re looking forward to and what they’re loving in the poetry world. This event was just as fabulous, with readings from SBT New Writers Award winner Kathrine Sowerby, poet Alexander Hutchison on WWI poet David Jones and Colin McGuire wringing peals of laughter from the delighted crowd.

Less than 30 minutes in total, it was a tantalising taster of what’s to come, and boy is the menu packed for the three days I’ll be in St Andrew’s in early March.

I’ll be doing podcast interviews with StAnza readers Sujata Bhatt and Brian Turner, catching as many events as I can fit in and catching up with as many folks as I can. The SPL will have a table brimming with Poetry Readers and poetry postcards for everyone to pick up and enjoy, and if it’s not quite as snowy as last year I might even make it down to the beach for an invigorating walk (though perhaps not a dip!). I can’t wait to hear our Commonwealth United Poets visitor Tanya Shirley in action (http://commonwealthpoetsunited.com/2014/01/30/commonwealth-poets-united/) and Ron Silliman, John Burnside, Tishani Doshi, Rob A Mackenzie, Richie McCaffery, the wonderful Tomica Bajsić who I met at the 2013 Berlin Poesiefestival… the list goes on.

When I first came to Scotland years ago I ventured to StAnza on my own, knowing no one in St Andrew’s and hardly anyone in Scotland; just for one day, just to see one poet – David Constantine. I was so awed by the reading he gave that I came home and wrote him an admiring letter, to which, to my surprise, he generously responded. I treasure that letter, his poems and his stories and it feels like a fabulous circle has swung round to connect itself, with me heading to StAnza this year to see David Constantine again – but with a few more friendly faces to say hello to this time. Hope to see you there and do come and tell me all about what it is you’re reading, writing and loving this year.

Jennifer Williams, Programme Manager
Scottish Poetry Library, February 2014

You can follow the SPL blog at http://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/connect/blog

Carrie Etter on the need to create poetry communities

15 Mar

Our guest blogger, poet Carrie Etter, started her writing career through communities of poets in her native USA. What does she expect to find on her visit to Scotland?

Over the years, I’ve been a member of a number of poetry communities, but for the sake of space I’ll just talk about my first few. Growing up in Normal, Illinois, I found my first such community when at the local university I took an adult education class, ‘Women Writing Women’s Lives’. I was fifteen and the youngest present by ten years. Eight from the class, including myself, stayed together for several years, continuing to workshop fiction, poetry, and memoir, and giving readings as a group around Illinois; we called ourselves Womanwriter.

As few in the group were avidly pursuing poetry, I think it was that much more important I found another community through the literary magazines I discovered in the university library. I started noticing recurring names and turning directly to poets I particularly liked, and when I began publishing my own poems, I felt increasingly part of a community of the page and periodical and think that’s partly why I have such a great affection for “little” magazines.

Moving to Los Angeles at 19, I found a vast community of poets that roved from reading to reading across the city—indeed, across several counties! Soon I learned that one could go to a reading every night of the week, and to try to bring it all together in those pre-internet days, I founded Out Loud: The Monthly of Los Angeles Area Poetry Events, a newsletter that began with 200 photocopies and myself the only person involved, and ended five years later with 3000 printed copies a month and a volunteer staff of 18. Financially I was barely getting by, but I had the best of times.

In Venice, California, on the western edge of L.A., Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center continues to thrive, and those involved in its full, varied schedule include many I knew twenty years ago. Fortunately Facebook helps me keep in touch with some of them, and I hope someday to return and read there, a homecoming I’ve fantasized about perhaps once too often.

Coming to StAnza for the first time, I’ve been curious about the Scottish poetry community, so I wrote to some Scottish poets I know for insight. Scotland’s answer to Beyond Baroque appears to be the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh. As J.L. Williams remarks, “The SPL is an amazing resource in so many ways – the collection, the people who work there, the events they put on.  It’s really a hub for poetry in Edinburgh, and feels so vibrant and alive.” Poetry series also provide a useful meeting place as well as the opportunity to hear a mix of local and visiting writers; Poetry At… and Shore Poets in Edinburgh and St Mungo’s Mirrorball in Glasgow were recommended by a number of poets for their welcoming and supportive atmosphere.

Those surveyed pointed out two main weaknesses in the Scottish poetry community. One lies with publishing, in terms of few poetry presses and lack of attention to poetry by Scottish newspapers. As Robert Crawford writes, “Scotland has no big poetry publisher, and the poetry ‘infrastructure’ of London probably has a scale and range that’s not really matched here.” On the matter of range, the second weakness is the lack of support for “other” or “experimental” poetries; there’s no Scottish magazine that publishes it to any extent, no reading series devoted to it. Sadly, one established “experimental” poet felt there was no place for his work in Scotland. I hope, though, that this is beginning to change. Rob A. Mackenzie, organizer of the Poetry At… series, is becoming known for a catholic taste and hosting an interesting range of poets, and I was heartened when StAnza welcomed my giving a talk on American “experimental” poet Barbara Guest.

I am eagerly looking forward to my time at StAnza and am grateful to its organizers for the opportunity to become acquainted firsthand with the Scottish poetry community. I’d be glad for others’ thoughts, in person at the festival and here online, to improve my knowledge and understanding of it.

Carrie’s talk on Barbara Guest is at the Town Hall on Saturday 19th at 2.15pm. She will be reading at St John’s Undercroft on Sunday 20th at 11.30am. Details at http://www.stanzapoetry.org

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