Tag Archives: Slam poetry

Win: Become the Wild-Card StAnza Slam Judge for 2015

6 Mar

Elvis McGonagall is set to host the StAnza Slam this Saturday evening. The stakes will be high: the winner of tomorrow’s event will go on to compete in the Scottish National Slam and from there, if they play their poems right, to the World Slam Championships in Paris.

StAnza heads will remember 2013’s winner, St Andrews’s student Carly Brown, who made it all the way to Paris – the youngest woman ever to do so from Scotland!

It happened then, and it could happen again – the World Slam title beckons, and the StAnza stage might just be the trampoline that launches a talented poet into the global series…

Now the StAnza slam is traditionally judged by three literary luminaries, but this year we’re going to shake things up a little.

Joining the programmed panel of two will be a Third Judge, a Wild-Card Judge, an Audience-Member-Who-Got-Powerful Judge, a You-Could-Win-This-Competition-and-Become-This-Judge.

Because when the stakes are high you want to make sure there’s an element of terrifying randomness. We can’t have the poets resting easy, after all.

If you would like to the this year’s Third Judge, and will be in St Andrews on Saturday evening ready to take the stage and vote like your life depends on it, then all you have to do is write a poem that fits in a tweet with the hashtag #StAnza15 (twoem, poeet?), responding to one of the events or themes of the festival: Archipelago or Unfinished Business.

The deadline to tweet your entry is 17:06 on Saturday. We’ll be RTing your entries all day 🙂

Tweet well, friends, and I’ll hope to see you all at the Slam!

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Five Festival Highlights (James’s Witterings #3)

11 Mar

What a cracker of a StAnza was pulled this week in St Andrews! The good people of Twitter are chatting about their festival highlights, so I have taken it upon myself to force my own upon you here.

The Byre Reopening

After last year’s last-minute relocation, it was lovely to be back in the gorgeous Byre Theatre with its magisterial auditorium, comfortable studio (I think those armchairs are new?), and bustling restaurant. Patrons, patrons and StAnza volunteers alike were prone to spontaneous cheers whenever a Byre staff member walked past, which lent an most pleasant atmosphere of celebration to proceedings. We wish Stephen and all the team the best in securing the venue’s future for years to come .

Spoken Word

This year there was a more diverse spoken-word strand than ever before in the One O’Clock and Poetry in Performance slots, ranging from the resonant word-sharing of Rachel Amey and Ross Sutherland to the fabulously fully staged extravaganzas of Robin Cairns and Alex Gwyther.

I particularly enjoyed the joint reading given by Sophia Walker and David Lee Morgan. Both took their 45-minute shows from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and boiled them down to 27-minute slots. The effect was intense, memorable, and highly enjoyable.

Scotch Pies

And did I mention that Stuart’s of Buckhavens, who provide macaroni and scotch pies for attendees, are world Scotch Pie champions? Anyone who attended a Café this year probably suspected as much.

The StAnza Slam

Sometimes at StAnza we’re so busy being happy and nice to each other that we forget that poetry is actually the most competitive sport there is. It was great to reminded of that on the Saturday night by the most vicious and violent StAnza Slam to date! (I’m told it took three hours to wash the blood out of the seats.)

It was a close call, but a winner was declared and reigning champion Carly Brown graciously handed her crown to Edinburgh-based Agnes Török, along with a ticket to compete in this year’s Scottish Slam Final on Saturday. Break a few legs, Agnes!

Rachel McCrum, Rachel Amey and Jenny Lindsay

Poetry Centre Stage

And of course, Poetry Centre Stage! Where else but StAnza can you hear Paul Muldoon, Carol Ann Duffy, John Burnside and Menna Elfyn all on the same stage in the space of less than a week?

Poetry Centre Stage Audience

I think a highlight for many will be Paul Muldoon’s reading on Sunday. Reading a mixture of familiar and new poems, he reminded us all that “The best poems, meanwhile, give the answers to questions that only they have raised.”

And also that dung beetles navigate by the stars.

Boozing and Schmoozing

One of the best things about StAnza every year is its friendly atmosphere and the exchange and interchange of ideas that happens between everyone who comes here. Poetry is an increasingly international community, and festivals like StAnza bring together voices from all over the world—this year from no less than three continents. (No penguins were in attendance, sadly. I’ll put it in the suggestions’ box.)

David Constantine's StAnza Lecture

As David Constantine said in his poignant StAnza Lecture about the poetry of the Great War, poetry finds the universal in the specific. The more voices we listen to, the wider our consciousness of the world, the more we will enjoy our time in it.

All photos taken by @empowermint.

See you next year!

‘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

Congratulations Carly, World Class Slammer!

16 Jun

_MG_2188You may have already heard that Carly Brown, winner of this year’s StAnza Slam, went on to represent Scotland at the World Championships in Paris earlier this month and came fourth (out of 24)! Carly will be blogging here about her experience very soon. So watch this space!

StAnza Slam winner to represent Scotland at World Championships

26 Apr
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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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sX1EcCgfXCw

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.


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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).

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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.

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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

The Digital Slam shortlist will be here tomorrow at noon: look, listen and vote!

12 Jul

Yes, we are only one sleep away (here in Scotland at any rate) from finding out who has reached the shortlist in our Digital Slam. Tomorrow at noon, BST we will post the names and links here. If you entered, now’s the chance to find out if you made the list.

And this is when our online audience gets involved.  Now it’s over to you to look, listen and vote for your favourite.  The voting takes place over the weekend, closing at midday on Monday 16th July, BST.  The lucky winner will be announced shortly after, when the votes have been counted.  Wherever you are, you can follow this event on Twitter via @StAnzaPoetry and/or #DigitalSlam

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