Tag Archives: Scottish Poetry Library

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

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The view from the chair

16 Feb

Colin WillColin Will is a Scottish poet and publisher based in Dunbar, from where he runs Calder Wood Press. He was Chair of the StAnza Board of Trustees from 2006 to 2009, was reappointed as a trustee in 2013 then as Chair in February 2014. The most recent collection of his own poetry is ‘The Propriety of Weeding’ (Red Squirrel Press, 2012).

StAnza is a team effort. We are very fortunate to have Eleanor Livingstone as our Director, and she does an enormous amount of work to create and sustain each Festival, and to plan future ones. Those who attend the Festival regularly, as I have, will know that StAnza is also supported by a large group of volunteers who give their time and skills generously to be the public face of the Festival – on the ticket desk, at the venues and at other places in the town. They are the ones whose smiles welcome visitors, and who make the Festival such a warm and friendly one. You may also have seen the volunteers who staff the venues, and who bring visiting poets to and from venues. We could not put on the Festival without these resourceful and positive people.

Behind the scenes too there’s a large group of dedicated people who look after technical issues, finances, transport, accommodation, catering, ticketing, venues, publicity, communication and many other essential services. There are people who help with future programme planning, and others who have an overview of the governance and management of the organisation.

That’s where I come in. I first joined the Board of Trustees of StAnza back in 2004, having previously chaired the Scottish Poetry Library’s Board, and having been a senior manager in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. I was asked to chair the Board in 2006, and I served a three-year term, stepping down in 2009. Last year my successor, Angela Wrapson, had to step down for personal reasons, and I was asked to come back on the Board. As from February’s AGM, I now chair it again.

I’m looking forward to another term in office, and I hope to ensure that we are, as we have always been, strong and resilient in the face of change. Who could have foreseen last year’s closure of the Byre Theatre, for example? Director, Board and volunteers stepped up to the challenge magnificently, and last year’s Festival was delivered very successfully. It’s hard to predict what challenges we might have to face in future, but I’m confident we will rise to these challenges and overcome any difficulties that may occur in future.

And now I’m looking forward to this year’s Festival in keen anticipation. I’ve booked my accommodation and bought my tickets, thanks to our new ticketing partners, and I know I’m going to enjoy an enriching experience at the Festival. Some of poets are friends, others I haven’t met yet, but we’re alike in our love for, and commitment to, poetry. Come and join me.

Colin Will blogs as http://sunnydunny.wordpress.com/

Listen again to the best of StAnza: festival podcasts

5 Jun
Erín Moure

Listen again to Erin Moure at StAnza
/Photo Credit: Chris Scott

If you missed out on StAnza this year or want to listen again to some of our wonderful poets. You can listen on our podcast page here to interviews with (and short readings by) George Szirtes, Alvin Pang, Hannah Silva, Gillian Clarke, Erin Moure and Ken Babstock. The podcasts were made by our friends at the Scottish Poetry Library and Culture Laser who visited the festival, recorders in hand, back in March. 

Jane Hirshfield at the Scottish Poetry Library: bringing back memories of StAnzas past

14 Apr

Jane Hirshfield made a welcome return to Scotland yesterday with a reading at the Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh. Her new book, Come, Thief, is a meditation on time and the fragility of life and it ranges in subject from the pleasures of daily chores to musings on the lost poems of Sappho and many observations of human nature as part of the natural world – a relationship we often forget: A dog coming in from the rain is ‘A chaotic rainstorm/Walking on four big paws’ and melons in a field are viewed sensously: ‘An unexpected weight/the sign of their ripeness.’  Or there is this, the poignant opening to a poem about someone’s decline in old age: ‘November. One pear/Sways on the tree past leaves, past reason.’

In the audience were many who first saw Jane at StAnza 2005 and the poet herself recalled how important that festival visit was in bringing her work to the UK. Bloodaxe publisher Neil Astley, who was also at the festival, went on to publish her work: her collected volume Each Happiness Ringed by Lions and the collection,  After, which was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot prize in 2006. Find out more about them at Bloodaxe.

Jane gave an inspiring talk about her own poetry practice after her reading. For some similar thoughts, listen to Jane talking about her work to SPL podcaster Ryan van Winkle here

StAnza brings the SPL’s paper sculptures to St Andrews

26 Feb

One of the most mysterious and exciting occurrences in the literary world last year was the appearance of a series of exquisite paper sculptures around the city of Edinburgh. The first appeared last March in the Scottish Poetry Library: a tiny, beautifully made tree growing out of an old book. It embodied the library’s motto: ‘By leaves we live’ and with it was a broken eggshell lined with words from a poem by Edwin Morgan. The sculpture, anonymously given, seemed to be a delightful one-off. But more paper masterpieces appeared throughout the year mainly in other libraries, literature centres and at the Edinburgh Book Festival. The last was discovered in the Scottish Poetry Library before Christmas: inspired by Norman McCaig’s poem ‘Gifts’, it recreated in paper the ‘impossible gifts’ of a wren’s wing cap and bees’ fur gloves. The identity of the sculptor remains unknown, and the charming notes which she left with each sculpture gave no clues.

‘I do not offer you impossible things-‘

A year on from that first discovery, the SPL have very kindly lent StAnza their two sculptures to go on show at the Byre Theatre during the festival. Come and see for yourselves what the SPL have called ‘the purest of gifts, unrequested and anonymous’. This will be the first time any of the sculptures have been displayed outside Edinburgh.

The pick of festival poetry events in Edinburgh this week

25 Aug

There may be rain and a nip of autumn chill in the morning air – but the festival season is still in full swing and there is more poetry to look forward to all around the city. Here are some highlights…The School of Poets is holding its well-known Courtyard Readings outside the Scottish Poetry Library every day at 2pm (until Saturday 27th)…At the Fruitmarket Gallery on Thursday 25th, meet the Gutter Poets, who all appear in the magazine of that name. The line up includes StAnza’s own Jim Carruth, Colin Herd and Graham Fulton….Roll up to Charlotte Square on Saturday 27th to hear Robert Bringhurst and David Harsent at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Poetry at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

17 Jun

Liz Lochhead, Scotland's Makar

Poetry lovers have plenty to look forward to at the Edinburgh International Book Festival which has just announced its programme for August. With a range of writers chosen to reflect the fast-changing times we live in, political change, ecology and the internet, the festival aims to give a snapshot of life and literature in the 21st century.

As one of its major themes, the festival celebrates the centenaries of two poetry giants, Sorley MacLean (who was at the heart of StAnza’s Gaelic Focus) and Czelaw Milosz are the focus of Legends in Literature, a series of talks and tributes about the lives and poetry of these two major figures.  And three laureates will be present: Scotland’s new Makar, Liz Lochhead and the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, and the new Children’s Laureate, Julia Donaldson, who is the guest selector for the children’s programme.

The line-up of present day poets features Paul Muldoon, Michael Longley, Robin Robertson, and Andrew Greig, David Harsent, and Robert Bringhurst and eminent Polish poet Adam Zagajewski. Among the new voices are Rachael Boast, a StAnza volunteer for several years, whose first collection has just been published by Picador, and Ryan van Winkle, Reader-in-Residence at the Scottish Poetry Library, who hosted the Golden Hour at StAnza earlier this year.

The Scottish Poetry Library (who, like the EIBF are partners to StAnza), have brought their successful series ‘Nothing But the Poem’, offering people the chance to read poetry in depth, without prior knowledge, and in a relaxed environment. Join them for a relaxed hour at the Writers Retreat: subjects include, of course, Sorley MacLean and Czelaw Milosz.

Other treats include poets on their prose writing: Don Paterson talking about sonnets, John Burnside on both his new poetry collection, Black Cat Bone and his new novel set in the Arctic; and Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts praise the beauty of modern wastelands.

All this, plus the announcement of the winners of two major awards: the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Awards (which have on the shortlist, Stewart Conn and Jackie Kay), and the Edwin Morgan Competition.

Tickets for the Edinburgh International Book Festival go on sale, 28 June. The festival runs from 13-29 August. For programme and booking details click here

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