Tag Archives: Scottish poetry

Memory and Reality: StAnza’s autumn reading

11 Sep

IMAG0036Yes, there’s a chill in the air, the leaves are turning and the nights are drawing in, but autumn produces its own fine crop of festivals and poetry, and we at StAnza are taking part.

StAnza is holding a reading at the Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival (SMHAFF), following on the success of our involvement in previous years, and this event, to be held in St Andrews, promises to be a treat.


Memory is an important tool, and poetry often serves to record and preserve memories in a way which makes them available to others. In this special reading,  Tom Pow (above) and Paula Jennings (right) will be offering poems on these themes, both of which have featured strongly in their work. Jennings, Paula

The date for your diaries is Tuesday 1st October,6-7pm and the venue is the Council Chamber at the Town Hall, Queen’s Gardens, St Andrews. Admission is free, and all are welcome, but to be sure of a seat, call 07900 207 429 or email: info@stanzapoetry.org

There’s more about SMHAFF’s programme of events here: http://www.mhfestival.com/


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.

‘Exuberant and electrifying’: Carly Brown on competing at the Poetry Slam World Cup

19 Jun

‘Are you actually Scottish?’

I was asked this question many times at this year’s Poetry Slam World Cup (Coupe du Monde) in Paris. It’s a fair question considering that I was representing Scotland in the competition, joining 21 other national champions from countries such as Russia, Gabon and Spain, to compete for the title of World Champion. Although I have called Scotland home for the last three years, I am not actually Scottish. Before arriving at the competition, I felt pretty self-conscious about this fact. I even memorized a few lines from ‘Scots Wha Hae’ on the plane to Paris, in an attempt to lend myself some Scottish credibility.

However, within minutes of arriving at the Culture Rapide (a eclectic café in Paris’ Chinatown which served as the festival hub), I learned that the U.S national champion, Thuli Zuma, was originally from South Africa and the English champion, Stephanie Dogfoot, was born in Singapore. The diverse backgrounds of the other slam poets was one of the most interesting aspects of the Coupe du Monde. I quickly learned that the World Cup was less of a competition between different nations than an international celebration of Slam Poetry.

Carly in Paris with Sweden's Niklas Mesaros (left) and Denmark's Michael Dyst.

Carly in Paris with Sweden’s Niklas Mesaros (left) and Denmark’s Michael Dyst.

Although some of the other competitors were seasoned Slam veterans, I’m still a relative newcomer to the slam scene. I attended my first poetry slam three years ago as a fresher at the University of St Andrews and I was immediately drawn to Slam because it seemed to be a marriage of my two passions: acting and writing. After winning a few student slams, I entered the StAnza Slam in March 2013 and won. I then went on to win the Scottish National Slam in Edinburgh, securing my place as the Scottish National Champion (and my slot in the World Cup). So, this June, accompanied by three university friends (one of whom is actually Scottish), I set off for the Coupe du Monde.

The Coupe du Monde took place between June 3-9th this year. For one week, we watched 21 talented poets perform their original poetry in their native languages, from the deadpan comedic verse of Denmark’s Michael Dyst, to the exuberant and electrifying words of France’s Eupédien Deschardons. One of my favourite poets was Israel’s Ellen Potless, both a charismatic performer (as she crooned out melodic syllables in Hebrew) and a talented writer, grappling with themes like national identity in her poem ‘Jerusalem’.

coupe du monde

The multi-lingual nature of the World Cup, however, was not without its issues. Although translations of the poet’s words were supposed to appear on a screen, in both French and English, as he/she performed, many of the translations were inaccurate or out of sync. At one hilarious and frustrating moment during the Final Round, the projector actually broke! However, despite all of these translation errors and technological mishaps, the energy and enthusiasm of each competitor was easily understood and appreciated by the French audience, who laughed and applauded on cue despite the language barrier.

As a proud unofficial Scot (and a committee member of StAnza), I am pleased to report that I won 4th in the competition overall, placing higher than any other English speaking poet. First place went to Quebec’s Simon Roberts, Second went to Gabon’s Didier Tanguy and Third to Spain’s Daniel Orviz. I would like to extend a heart-felt congratulations to all of the poets I met that week and a thank you to my friends who travelled from the U.K to support me in Paris. It was one of the most inspiring, exhilarating and exhausting weeks of my life and I was honored to take part. Go Scotland…Vive L’Ecosse!

 Carly was interviewed by Le Point magazine while in Paris: see the video here

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. 

Stewed Rhubarb Press win Callum Macdonald Memorial Award

20 May

tumblr_m9hoqzFZd11rf13gfo1_500Congratulations to Stewed Rhubarb Press, which has won the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award for Rachel McCrum’s poetry pamphlet, The Glass Blower Dances.
Stewed Rhubarb Press was founded just under a year ago by James T Harding and Rachel McCrum in order to publish poets with a performance or spoken word slant. The winning pamphlet was their first publication, and they have gone on to publish Jenny Lindsay, Harry Giles, Anne Connolly, Lucy Ayrton, Tracey S. Rosenberg and Katherine McMahon. Browse the pamphlets at http://www.stewedrhubarb.org

“We didn’t go into pamphlet publishing for the glitz and glamour,” said James, “so winning this award has been rather a surreal affair for us. It’s a serious honour to have won, and I can’t thank this year’s Callum Macdonald team enough for their recognition and encouragement.” As the writer of the winning pamphlet, Rachel McCrum will become Michael Marks Poet in Residence at the Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies in Greece this July. Working as a performance poet in Edinburgh since 2010, McCrum is one half of the Rally & Broad literary cabaret and the Community Project Manager for the Inky Fingers spoken-word collective.

Rachel McCrum/photo Chris Scott

Rachel McCrum/photo Chris Scott

Both Rachel and James have strong connections with StAnza. Rachel performed at our Poetry Café along with Harry Giles – see her blog about it here. James has covered many events at StAnza as a Festival Blogger.

StAnza Slam winner to represent Scotland at World Championships

26 Apr

Carly performing at the StAnza Slam in March/Photo Chris Scott

StAnza Slam winner, Carly Brown, is to represent Scotland at the World Championship Slam in Paris, 3-9 June. As a result of her triumph at the festival in March, Carly took part in the Scottish slam Championships in Edinburgh in April  – and won. A student at the University of St Andrews, Carly is a committee member on StAnza as well as being active on the St Andrews student poetry and literature scene. But she is a relative newcomer to the art of slamming so her continued success has been exciting to watch.

Carly, who hails from Texas originally, says:  ‘I was completely shocked and very proud to have my writing recognized in this way. I’m definitely still a newcomer to slam and I’m looking forward to watching some wonderful poets perform in Paris. I’m facing off in my first round against some from Russia, Portugal and Romania!  I’m going to do my best to represent Scotland (a country that I really love) but for me it’s just about the experience and everybody coming together to celebrate poetry.’

Good luck Carly. We’ll be rooting for you!

Read more about Carly’s experience in this interview in the Stand 

And you can check out Carly’s performance at the recent Scottish championships below:


See ‘Farlin’ at the Town Hall, St Andrews – until 27 April

11 Apr


One of the highlights at this year’s StAnza was the fabulous exhibition, ‘Farlin’, at the Town Hall, Queens Gardens, St Andrews. The show is still running ­- until 27 April – so you can catch up with it or pay another visit.


The exhibition is the result of a collaboration between 16 poets and makers in Fife and Shetland and the works on show, ranging from texts to textiles to jewellery are stunning. Farlin is the word for a container used by herring gutters, and the themes which inspired poets and artists included the impact of fishing on the Shetland and Fife communities and relationships with the natural world and Scottish history. Words and objects combine to make objects that are thoughtful and beautiful.


Stephanie Green, our Festival Blogger, gave her response here when she visited Farlin during StAnza. It also caught the eye of Rio, the online crafts magazine and was reviewed enthusiastically by the Tribe

Find out more about the exhibition on the Fife Contemporary Arts & Craft website here

The project is a collaboration between Fife Contemporary Art & Craft and Shetland Arts in partnership with StAnza Poetry Festival 2013 .

 Photographs by Chris Scott

Poem in Your Pocket Day: 18 April

5 Apr

April 18th has been declared Poem in Your Pocket Day – it’s an idea that started in the US as part of their national Poetry Month and now it has been adopted in the UK.


All you have to do is choose your favourite poem and carry it around on that day. Read it, share it with someone. There are lots of interesting ways you can pass your poem on – from notes to matchboxes to portable pockets. Take a look at the UK campaign’s Facebook page and the American Academy of Poets website here for some inspiration and share your own contributions.

StAnza of course has a happy history of exhibiting ways to carry poems around, from cakes and biscuits to coasters and fruit – and the lovely pocket-sized Poems for All booklets. See below.

Idleness & doilie (photocredit StAnza-Stephanie Green)

Photo by Stephanie Green

StAnza 2014 to be part of Homecoming Scotland

28 Mar

No sooner have we taken down the banners and packed away for this year’s festival than it’s time to start thinking about the next!  And our 2014 festival will be very special indeed.

StAnza, we can now reveal, will be taking part in Homecoming Scotland 2014, a countrywide celebration which the First Minister, Alex Salmond, officially launched  yesterday at Hopetoun House, Edinburgh. With 100 events announced, and more to come it is going to be an action packed calendar. Next year, of course, Scotland will also host both the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup.

StAnza will be held next year from 5-9 March and is making its own Homecoming contributions as part of its festival programme – more will be revealed in the next few months. Suffice to say for now that we will be looking at what the concept of ‘home’ means to poets in Scotland and beyond. One of the festival’s themes will be A Commonwealth of Poetry and there will be a focus on Poetry in Motion, all to celebrate through poetry the Commonwealth Games and Scotland’s cultural connections with the Commonwealth. Follow us on this Blog, on Facebook and Twitter for more developments.

First Minister Alex Salmond is joined by representatives from Homecoming 2014 events

First Minister Alex Salmond is joined by representatives from Homecoming 2014 events/photo VisitScotland

VisitScotland and EventScotland are working in partnership with the Scottish Government to deliver Homecoming 2014 – it will be an opportunity for communities nationally and internationally to explore Scotland and celebrate the very best of Scottish culture. The celebration will cover five themes: active, food and drink, creative, natural and ancestry and among the brand-new events planned are the John Muir Festival in East Lothian to herald the opening of the John Muir coast to coast route (Muir,who hailed from East Lothian, founded America’s National Parks), the Forth Bridges Festival to mark its 50th anniversary, a spectacular Ryder Cup Opening Concert, the Findhorn Bay Arts Festival in Moray, the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry, the first World Sheepdog Trials in Tain and the European Festival of Brass based in Perthshire. 

Find out more about these and other planned events at http://www.visitscotland.com/see-do/homecoming-scotland-2014/

Keep up with Homecoming news on Twitter: #homecoming2014


StAnza slam: Kate Palfrey

25 Mar

Since ‘slam papi’ Marc Kelly Smith established it in Chicago in 1986, the poetry slam has revelled in its youth like a teenager in an unmade bed, bright and beautiful and slightly ragged round the edges. Wrestling to combine beautiful words with a disorganised schedule, transcendent flights of metaphor with the obligatory knob joke, and stage fright with stage presence, slam poets are as ballsy and brave now as they have ever been.


Especially at Stanza 2013.  Building on a strong tradition of great atmosphere and a deep pool of talent, this year’s slam was good fun. Stanza regulars such as Robin Cairns, Sally Evans and Colin McGuire (all of whom were finalists) served up with pace and lyricism a smorgasbord of piquant poetry, leaning firmly but not too heavily on that standard of the slam, the tower of metaphor that gets more obnoxious and precarious as the lines mount up. Tracey S Rosenberg and Harry Giles, familiar and treasured voices here in St Andrews, similarly lived up to reputation, with more daring and perhaps more refined work. that didn’t quite score the points from the “Darwinian death match” judges ( – a trio of young men laconic, acerbic, witty, gleeful).


MC Luke Wright (back), with the judges (l-r), Luke Kennard, Tsead Bruinja and Jon Ramsay 

It was, I think, the St Andrews’ home-grown Inklight delegates who stole the show. Unpolished but powerful, a little inexperienced, but with a lot of guts, Youkang Jun, Trevor Wallace and Harshad Sam had home-turf advantage and a bevy of supporters. Winner Carly Brown, current Inklight president, has poise, lyricism, passion and humour  – delivered with a balance and grace that we see in modern giants like Shane Koyczan, current darling of the TED talks phenomenon. Carly and her megawatt-smile-burning-gaze-and-blazing-verse combo will go far.


And the winner is…

All this was MC’d with youthful vigour and consummate style by Luke Wright, “the best young performance poet around” (The Observer). Intelligent, with tried-and-tested rhythm and the pace we expect from an experienced performer, Wright spearheaded the evening – a figurehead (his hairstyle is something of a statement) of panache. We enjoyed his dulcet Essex tones and the Anglo-centric humour of pieces like ‘Nigel Farridge’, particularly as a foil to the majority Scots and American participants.

So thank you, slammers, for having the guts and the grammar to give us a riotous evening. Keep rhyming, keep the rhythm, keep the passion.

Kate Palfrey is a member of StAnza’s organising team and she had the tricky job of being the Scorekeeper at the Slam.

Photos by Chris Scott

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