Tag Archives: spoken word

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!

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Meet Erin Fornoff, Digital Slam winner

25 Sep

We are handing this blog space over to the winner of our Digital Slam, Dublin based American poet, Erin Fornoff. Check out her winning StAnza Digital Slam performance here.

In this post, Erin tells us a little about her background, her favourite poets and what she’s doing performance wise in the lively poetry and spoken work scene across the Irish Sea.

IMG_1792 (2)I am from Asheville, North Carolina, a hippie town in the middle of the Bible Belt of the Appalachian Mountains–the prettiest place on earth! I work for a charity doing social entrepreneurship, and spend my days talking to social visionaries about how they are changing the world and how they got to be the way they are–a privilege. I have lived in Dublin for the past four and a half years.

I came from a creative family and read constantly but was always more focused on visual art. When I was in college, I did nothing artistic, but I got to be friends with a gang that was writing a thousand lines of poetry for their senior thesis. The group also went to a local dive bar every Thursday after class for pitchers of beer with the professor. I’d join them sometimes (the pitchers were free), I loved all the artistic chatter, and started wondering if I could write poems too. I decided to try and write one. I worked on it for ages–about whitewashing a house, badly, during a brief sojourn in Spain–and submitted it to the University literary journal’s poetry contest. I was floored when it won first prize! Baffling to me now, I didn’t write one again for years and years until I moved to Dublin and was swept up in the thriving literary scene here, my favorite part of which is performance based. I found a home and a crew and an endless source of inspiration in the basement bars and festival tents where poetry comes alive in a different way. I found some great friends who were extremely supportive, got me on stage and clapped after, and I will never forget it.

My favorite poets and influences are too many to mention–Mary Oliver and her journeys and wild geese was an early first love; and Philip Levine with his poems about eating potatoes with butter and salt and “Can you taste what I am saying?”;  and Richard Wilbur and his daughter and how he “hoped everything I hoped for her before, but harder”; Billy Collins and the sheep and the Gutenberg Bible; Gerald Manley Hopkins and his “heart in hiding/stirred for a bird”; Hafiz and casting all his votes for dancing; Langston Hughes and jazz like a hypodermic needle; Emily Dickinson’s “If your nerve, Deny you/ Go above your nerve”; and Yeats and his romantic Ireland (or lack thereof). Others include Goodie Mob, the hip hop poets of the Dirty South, my mates Colm Keegan, John Cummins, Kalle Ryan, Stephen James Smith, and those astonishing English musical hybrids Kate Tempest and Dizraeli.

Upcoming I have a few gigs, I’m doing one end of October at Farmleigh House where the Queen stayed when she was here, with my Glastonbury friend Hollie McNish and another friend, Hozier, who’s a rising soul/blue singer, hosted by Peter Sheridan, their Writer In Residence, a playwright and author who became a friend and mentor after he vanquished me in the finals of Literary Death Match. Very excited about that one, partially because it’s not a place with a lot of spoken word and hopefully we can shake it up! http://www.farmleigh.ie/Events/Title,25003,en.html

I’m also curating “Righteous Verse,” a group of some poets performing at a festival called Fading Light in Kerry in the October bank holiday–a small thing that takes over all the pubs in a whole little village in Caherdaniel, the far southwest of Ireland. http://fadinglightfest.com/

Finally, I’m working with a group of performance and page poets, all mates, and we’re organizing Dublin’s first spoken word festival, called Lingo, next spring. No official date set but one coming soon!

Erin Fornoff

View more of Erin’s poetry at  http://erinfornoff.wordpress.com/videos/

Sample some Stewed Rhubarb poetry this weekend

1 Nov

A brand new poetry press is being launched in Edinburgh this weekend: Stewed Rhubarb is a new venture which publishes the work of spoken word poets and its first three pamphlets are getting a send off at the Jazz Bar, Chamber Street this Sunday, 4th November.

StAnza goers will recognise the three performance poets who are taking their poems from the stage to the printed page for the first time. Nice covers too.

Jenny Lindsay is the reigning BBC Slam Champion and has appeared at a number of festivals and events including StAnza, of course, the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Latitude, and Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Rachel McCrum was a finalist at the 2012 BBC Edinburgh Festival Poetry Slam and winner of the 2012 International Women’s Day Slam. She co-organises Inky Fingers, the Edinburgh based spoken word collective, which has collaborated with StAnza on several occasions.

Katherine McMahon is also one of the organisers of Inky Fingers, and her pamphlet includes an album of her poetry with soundscapes by Fiona Keenan.

Stewed Rhubarb was founded this year by Rachel McCrum and James Harding to provide a publishing outlet for performance poets. The pamphlets are all available to buy online and at the poets’ own gigs.

Hear the poets read at Sunday’s launch event: entry is £3, and guests are invited to stay at the Jazz Bar for an evening of jazz and frivolity after the readings. For more information, visit the Stewed Rhubarb website

Edinburgh Festivals Poetry & Spoken Word Calendar

17 Jul

The Grassmarket at Festival Time, photocredit copyright to Edinburgh Inspiring Capital

 Our Calendar of poetry and spoken word events taking place in Edinburgh during next month’s festival season is now bulging at the seams, with 540 performances from 68 separate shows or events.  We have kept it as an Excel document, so everyone can sort it to suit themselves.  I hope there are good audiences for all the events, and we’d be happy for short reviews to be posted as comments on this page. And if anyone manages to go to all 68 shows, do let us know! Check it online at the link below.  

StAnza’s Edinburgh Poetry & Spoken Word Calendar August 2012

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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