Tag Archives: St Andrews

…. and of course St Andrews!

13 Jul

After the Reading

She breathes in the hairspray topnotes
of a highland single malt, which needs a glass
not a tooth mug. Her lips sting,
they have opened and closed all day.
Here’s to a taste of being happy
after the gentle pain of closure – the pang
of goodbye to the St Andrews’ teacher
who’d holidayed in her home town,
to the Welsh poet she hopes to meet again,
goodbye to the rather famous,
and to the Iraqi poet with wheat-beer breath
who kissed her on both cheeks.

The sting repeats with the second mugfull
while the Gaelic band plays elsewhere.
The moon’s larger than she’s ever known.
She’s tired of smiling, wants her lips
to burn to silence, her ears to rest
from adjusting to accents, her eyes to start seeing
double. She senses her before she sees her,
glimpsed in the mirror, opposite the bed,
past the flowers – a woman, not a poet –
just a woman drinking alone.
She doesn’t like to judge
but that whisky’s half her age.

Katrina Naomi

St Andrews

St Andrews

No poetry map of Scotland would be complete without lots of poems about St Andrews, and this first one we’re posting is not only about St Andrews but also about StAnza, by the poet Katrina Naomi. It was first published in The London Magazine in 2012, and sharp eyes will notice that it contains the lines which appeared on the StAnza coffee coasters.

 

A Guide to Online Events at #StAnza14

27 Feb

Photo by Iain GrayStAnza calls St Andrews its home, but it likes to get out of the house now and again – exercise keeps you young after all – so this year there will a record number of webcasts of StAnza events as well as the usual Twitter shenanigans. (Though we’re trying to avoid a repeat of the Bill Herbert banana incident.) You’ll find a run-down of the four online events below, as well as links to follow at the right time to watch the show.

As always, the social-media monkeys will be following #StAnza14 and @stanzapoetry during the event so you will be able to ask questions and make comments to the panellists. Attendees in person receive coffee and Fisher & Donaldson pastries, so we recommend online viewers stock up before logging in in case you get jealous during the show. Questions about the refreshments will not be passed on unless unusually witty. That is not a challenge.

Poetry Café for Breakfast: War & Remembrance (Friday 7th March, 10.00-11.00am GMT)

“Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light, / As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.” (Wilfred Owen, ‘Dolce et decorum est’)

The war poets are among the most famous and respected writers in history, but what role does poetry play in modern warfare? Panellists David Constantine, Richie McCaffery, Dan O’Brien and SMSteele will discuss this and other questions about war poetry for Friday’s breakfast panel.

Poetry Café for Breakfast: Home Thoughts (Saturday 8th March, 10.00-11.00am GMT)

Tishani Doshi, Gabeba Baderoon, Martin Bates, Sophia Walker and Rob A. Mackenzie are all poets who, in one way or another, have had they feeling they’re not in Kansas any more. Join them as they talk about how moving home has affected their writing and what, after their experiences, home means to them now.

Poetry Café for Breakfast: Means & Ends in Poetry Translation (Sunday 9th March, 10.00-11.00am GMT)

“Tu proverai sì come sa di sale / lo pane altrui, e come è duro calle / lo scendere e ‘l salir per l’altrui scale.” (Dante Alighieri. “You’ll prove how bitter another man’s bread tastes, and how hard it is to climb up and down another man’s stairs.”)

Poetry translation is a notoriously difficult activity, but a rather interesting one to discuss. Panellists Menna Elfyn, Tomica Bajsić, Arjen Duinker and Marco Fazzini explore aspects of moving poems between languages, drawing on their knowledge of translation into and out of Dutch, Croatian, Italian and Welsh.

A Poetry Tour of Scotland (Sunday 9th March, 3.30-4.30pm GMT)

This event kickstarts StAnza’s poetry map of Scotland project, part of the year of Homecoming Scotland. Poems about a specific location in Scotland will be read and then pinned onto the map – which will be available online as well as in person. The map will continue to be updated throughout spring and summer, eventually forming (we hope!) a comprehensive description of Scotland through poetry.

The Bill Herbert bananas

The Byre open again!

9 Feb

ByreThe Byre Theatre is open this weekend for the Fife Jazz Festival, but it’s also open again as a public space with the cafe restaurant and bar back up and running – and serving great food. It was great to see it living again yesterday and let’s keep breathing life into it. The cafe restaurant will be open to the public from 12.30pm today. Good on those behind getting it open and everyone at StAnza is cheering them on – let them see they have everyone’s support. The sun is shining so what more reason to get out and about in St Andrews. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see people today standing three deep waiting to get served in the Byre …. Yesterday’s lunchtime carrot and lentil soup is recommended!

Tickets now on sale for StAnza 2014

17 Jan

banner 14 Tickets are now on sale for StAnza 2014, in person, by phone and online. Full box office details are online at our, or telephone VisitScotland on 01334 474609. The printed brochure will be available from late January and you can request a brochure by emailing brochure@stanzapoetry.org or phoning 01334 474610, if you’re not already on our mailing list.

The festival, which takes place in St Andrews, lasts for five days from 5th to 9th March 2014 and features almost 100 events, many of them free – a diverse range of performances, readings, music, drama, talks, workshops and a masterclass, open mic events, films, exhibitions and installations. This is the place to hear your favourite poet, discover new voices, meet other poets, writers and publishers and enjoy the energetic buzz of the beautiful and historic town of St Andrews. More than 65 poets from a dozen countries worldwide will take part along with a wide range of visual artists, musicians and film-makers. Once again the festival’s lively and friendly hub will be in the Byre Theatre, which has two theatre spaces, a café/bistro and gallery areas, but events will also take place in venues in and around the town centre of St Andrews.

Headline poets include Carol Ann Duffy, Paul Muldoon, John Burnside, Menna Elfyn, Tishani Doshi, Sujata Bhatt, Ron Silliman and, as Poet in Residence for 2014, Brian Turner. For Scotland’s year of Homecoming in 2014, an in anticipation of the Commonwealth Games hosted by Glasgow this year, the first theme is A Common Wealth of Poetry. The second theme Words Under Fire responds to the legacy of the poetry of the First World War.

David Constantine will give this year’s lecture on the Great War in poetry at Home and abroad, our Past & Present series of talks will include past war poets David Jones, Isaac Rosenberg, Charles Hamilton Sorley, Vera Brittain and George Campbell Hay. There will also be a presentation on poetry and propaganda featuring JOOT Theatre Company, and exhibitions include Stephen Raw’s response to the poetry of Wilfred Owen, War is for this the clay grew tall.

The festival gets off to a spectacular start on the opening night with Rime a retelling through acrobatics and modern dance of the Coleridge classic, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Before the acrobatics start, the celebrated novelist, Louis de Bernières, will launch this 17th annual festival. In 2004 he came to St Andrews to talk about his love of poetry, and now a decade later he returns with his own debut collection of poetry.

For creative inspiration, sign up for one of six workshops this year which tickets last, our Masterclass with Paul Muldoon, or an individual session with Poetry Coach in Residence, Philippa Johnston. From Poetry Café breakfast panel discussions to evening open mics and the famous StAnza Slam, this year hosted by Rally & Broad, there’s something for all tastes, including lots of interactive events.

Carol Ann Duffy (photo copyright  Michael J Woods 2010)

Carol Ann Duffy (photo copyright Michael J Woods 2010)

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.

images

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/

smhaff_logo

Seamus Heaney at StAnza

9 Sep

A personal reminiscence by Brian Johnstone, former Festival Director 

In his funeral tribute to Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon talked about how everyone in the poetry community has been devastated by our sudden loss. Muldoon went on to describe Seamus’s “signal ability to make each of us feel connected not only to him but to one another.” So in this small remembrance of his connections to StAnza, and to me through my work for the festival, I can only call him Seamus. To address him as Heaney seems too impersonal for such a generous and gregarious man. Although I only met him a few times, and attended no more than half a dozen of his appearances, my feelings tell me that I have lost a friend – a friend whose poetry has inspired me in my own writing, but also a man who made me feel he was a friend and supporter of all I tried to do with StAnza – someone who encouraged me in both of these endeavours whenever we met.

1999Seamus’s first appearance at StAnza was in 1999 – only the second festival, so we were aiming high even in those days. Through the support of the University School of English we were able, despite being a very young festival, to feature him on the bill. Seamus appeared on the Thursday night in the Buchanan Theatre – our subsequent main venue The Byre not having been built by then – taking the stage for a two part reading. In the first half he read from his various collections and in the second from his recently published translation of Beowulf. Needless to say, the event was wonderful and very well received by a capacity audience.

I had actually first come across Seamus in performance at an event held as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe some years before. Watching the funeral online brought back powerful memories of this first experience. Playing at various points during the service was the uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn, with whom Seamus had performed at that Fringe event years back. Sitting side by side on the Assembly Rooms stage in front of a large audience doesn’t sound like the best way to achieve a close rapport with those listening, but so focused were the two that the experience was one of extreme intimacy. I felt as if I had been sitting at their fireside in rapt attention as the poet and piper swapped verses and tunes. It was my first encounter with Seamus Heaney and it is one I will never forget.

It is this very sense of intimacy that Seamus was so adept at putting over to his audience, and which was characteristic of his subsequent appearances at StAnza. At that first one in the Buchanan Theatre, however, I only got to meet him very briefly because of his other commitments. I managed to shake him by the hand and thank him for his reading, and that was it. But this was enough for him to remember me when next we met, despite the hundreds of people he must have met in all his travels. This was in London at the British Library when I was representing StAnza at the 2005 launch of The Poetry Archive website. Seamus was the guest reader at this event and I was astonished to discover that he not only remembered me but was even happy to have a chat for ten minutes or so. We had bit of craic about the great Scottish poet – and mutual favourite – Norman MacCaig and I was able to personally invite Seamus back to St Andrews for a future festival. He was glad to accept, and we subsequently agreed on him topping the bill for the 10th festival in 2007. But I would be in his company again before then.

In the summer of 2006, Seamus gave a superb reading at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and I was fortunate to be invited to the reception held in his honour at the Irish Consulate. As always, Seamus was feted by a large crowd, but the reception gave me another chance to have a friendly chat with Seamus&Brianthe poet and an opportunity to meet his wife Marie. I remember him reiterating his real fondness for St Andrews and for Scotland in general and my saying how much we were looking forward to welcoming him to StAnza the following March. Sadly, that was not to be.

I was on holiday in France later that summer when I had a call from Eleanor Livingstone, then StAnza’s Artistic Director. The news was bad. Seamus had had a stroke and was in hospital. His doctors had advised him – ordered, more like – to cancel all engagements for the next year at least. All I could do was ask Eleanor to pass on my sympathies to Seamus’s family, with whom we were in touch through a mutual friend, and start thinking about who we could book as a replacement.

Back home, meeting Eleanor to discuss this, she told me about an extraordinary phone call she had had while I was still on holiday. If proof were needed – which it’s not – of Seamus’s extraordinary character, this is it. Having been unable to get any definite information, Eleanor called the mobile number Seamus had given us. The following day Seamus, having noticed her missed calls, phoned back. He was, he told her, still in hospital but he wanted to apologise to StAnza for letting us down!

Thankfully, Seamus recovered from that bout of ill health and by the next year was ready to discuss honouring his promise to come back to StAnza. While he explained that he wouldn’t be able to be at StAnza in the immediate future, he wanted to be clear – more generosity – that he hadn’t forgotten his promise. And so he was booked to appear in 2010, the last StAnza for which I was Festival Director. For me personally, this was a wonderful coup and for our audiences it meant that my stepping down would be marked with the biggest name possible. I was – am – so grateful to Seamus for that.

Working together on festival planning, Eleanor and I managed to programme not one but three separate events featuring Seamus. A full main stage reading, of course; but Seamus was also willing to give a round table reading, one of StAnza’s signature intimate readings for only a dozen or so people; on top of that, we arranged for him to take part in an In Conversation with Dennis O’Driscoll (sadly also recently departed). A bumper appearance indeed!

Seamus book signedI have a very special personal memento of my last festival as a director – and all down to Seamus. Naturally, I asked him to sign a few of his collections for me, one of these being my long-term favourite Station Island. The original Faber publication of this features on the cover and title page what looks like an illustration from an ancient Irish manuscript. This Seamus deftly altered adding speech bubbles to mark my departure from StAnza, but my continued commitment to the stanzas of my own poetry. It’s just such a quirky and amusing bit of personal response – I will treasure it always.

Both the main stage reading and the In Conversation were sold out in record time and in the end we had to relay both events to the Byre studio and conference room for overspill audiences whom Seamus surprised by dropping in on them unexpectedly during the interval. Again, generous to a fault. Other visiting poets were crammed into every available corner of the theatre, just to ensure they caught the events. In the end, the audiences for both main events were at full capacity in the main theatre, and overflowing to not one but two additional venues. The audiences for both main events were well in excess of the actual capacity of their original venues!

But for me, the true highlight of Seamus’s last StAnza appearance was his round table reading. At that he surprised all present by producing photocopies of a series of new, unpublished poems and passing them round the table. These he proceeded to read and then – more astonishing yet – to more or less ask the audience for a crit. We could scarcely believe that we were sitting round a table with someone of Seamus Heaney’s stature and he was asking us what we though of his new work. Generous again, and inclusive in a way that, as Paul Muldoon said, made us all feel so connected to him and, through him, to each other.

There is little more I can say except that, while I owe StAnza so much, and through it have met numerous poets whose work I love and admire, being able to meet and share some small bits of time with Seamus Heaney is one of the things I feel absolutely the most grateful for. As the poet Jo Bell said so eloquently in her tribute to Seamus, “Poetry stands for love. Those whom we remember are the ones who said most clearly, that which we are trying every day to say.”

Brian Johnstone

9th September 2013

 

StAnza ’99 programme:

http://issuu.com/stanza/docs/1999?e=1457317/3190480

StAnza 2010 programme:

http://issuu.com/stanza/docs/stanza10-final?e=1457317/3187815

2010 photo gallery:

http://stanzapoetry.org/2010/photo-gallery10.php

Seamus Heaney, 1939-2013

1 Sep
StAnza 2010 In Conversation event

Seamus Heaney in conversation with Dennis O’Driscoll at StAnza 2010

The death of Seamus Heaney has prompted tributes from all over the world: it is indeed rare to see a poet’s passing command the front pages of newspapers and dominate the internet and social media the way his has done. For those of us at StAnza he will be particularly missed. His second appearance at the festival in 2010, after a gap of ten years, was one of the most memorable ever. He and the late (also much missed) Dennis O’Driscoll brought humour, grace and wit to their performances and to the festival atmosphere in general. Heaney said at the time that he had an especially ‘deep connection’ with St Andrews and with the poetry audience there.

His is a great loss, for family, friends and to poetry.

Much has already been published about the life and work of Heaney including this Guardian obituary. We will be posting a full appreciation soon about the poet’s involvement with StAnza and St Andrews, from Brian Johnstone, former Festival Director.

In the meantime here is a recent recording by Heaney himself, reading the beautiful poem Postscript, which captures so well the preciousness and transcience of life:

http://www.rte.ie/archives/2013/0830/471296-seamus-heaney-postscript/

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