Tag Archives: StAnza 2011

Photo Gallery Online

25 May


StAnza 2011 Launch

 The Afterword page for the StAnza 2011 spring festival has now gone live with a whole gallery of photographs from the events, and snapshots of all that was going on at venues and around town in between events – plus links to podcasts, videos and a selection of reviews and blogs. If you attended the festival, this is an opportunity re re-live personal highlights of those busy five days in March, and maybe catch sight of yourself. If you couldn’t manage to get here this this year, now you have a chance to see what was happening, and spot who was there. Click here for the Afterword and here for the photo gallery.

Edwin Morgan Poetry Competition

22 Apr
Vicki Feaver at StAnza 2010

The fourth Edwin Morgan International Poetry Competition is currently accepting entries at www.edwinmorganpoetrycompetition.co.uk.  Prize money totalling £6,600 is offered and this year’s judges are Vicki Feaver, who read at StAnza 2010, and Kona McPhee who took part in this year’s festival last month. The closing date is June 10th, 2011 and the prize giving at the Edinburgh International Book Festival is scheduled for 17th August.

Kona McPhee at StAnza 2011

StAnza stories: three young composers, three poems and a BBC broadcast

30 Mar

One of the StAnza ‘firsts’ this year – and there were several – was the premier of three new musical compositions, settings to three beautiful poems by the great Gaelic poet Sorley MacLean. The pieces were the winning entries in a competition held by StAnza along with the SCO and the University of St Andrews Music Centre. And they were performed for the first time on Sunday 20 March at StAnza, in the presence of the young composers, Matthew Oglesby, Elisabeth Cowe and Lliam Paterson (pictured left) and of Sorley MacLean’s daughter Ishbel. The musical settings were to MacLean’s own English translations of the poems, An Autumn Day’, ‘Under Sail’, ‘Dogs and Wolves’ and the Gaelic versions were read by Maoilios Caimbeul, the festival’s first ever Gaelic Poet-in-Residence.

The music was performed by the St Andrews Chamber Orchestra, with three guest soloists from the SCO (Alison Mitchell, Jane Atkins and Sharron Griffiths) and the soprano Lesley-Jane Rogers.

It was a unique occasion – and the BBC were there to record the music, to be broadcast tomorrow (Thursday 31 March) at 1.30pm on Radio nan Gaidheal. You will be able to listen again on i-player if you miss it live.

Here’s the link:



The party’s over…until next year…

21 Mar

Believe it or not, StAnza 2011 is over – bar some tidying up at the Byre Theatre, who have played host to the poetry and a’ that.

In a festival with the theme Timepiece, it’s ironic that the event itself is being transformed into memories: lines of poetry being recalled, pictures on Facebook pages and snapshots on people’s mobiles.

As Eleanor Livingstone (left) introduced the final centre stage reading last night, there was a big round of applause, for this was her first StAnza as Festival Director . But as this listener settled down to enjoy the poetry of the marvellous Ciaran Carson and Fife’s own world class poet, Douglas Dunn, it was with a sense of how precious these last moments of the festival were.

Luckily we can relive the experience thanks to our social media supremo Colin Fraser and his team, who recorded the readings, and to our team of photographers who have captured the festival’s atmosphere through some wonderful images. Check us out here, on Facebook and on Twitter as we post our memories. Perfect for those who couldn’t make it to StAnza this year and hate to miss out.

We were lucky in so many ways: the mercurial weather systems of St Andrews produced almost-warm sunshine and the nights were blessed by a beautiful full moon in clear skies – our overseas visitors saw the town and its surroundings at its best. A few of us soaked up the sunshine this morning outside    Zest cafe in South Street (future visitors take note – there are not many suntraps in this town), and chatted about the events we had enjoyed. As well the main events there are all the incidentals – Selima Hill deftly dealing with an unexpected heckler and Douglas Dunn taking not one but two graceful bows, after the longest ovation in StAnza’s history.  There was the moment, for me, backstage, when the sound of the SCO and St Andrews Chamber Orchestra (tuning up before their Sunday concert) came in waves up the stairwell from the Auditorium.  Lots more memories – more than one blog can hold.

I’m writing this in the Byre Theatre, where, as I said, we have been tidying up and packing up StAnza stuff for next year. Ah next year! Believe it or not, after a brief rest and a few meetings for post match analysis, the whole shebang gets into gear again as plans are hatched for 2012.

Thanks again to the gorgeous Peggy Hughes from the Scottish Poetry library for her brilliant festival blogging. Keep checking in for more news and clips from StAnza 2011.

Join the conversation at StAnza: talks and debates

13 Mar

A Poetry Breakfast panel gets going at StAnza 2010

StAnza is well known for its lively, energetic atmosphere, for the buzz that it creates around the poetry. This is due as much to its discussion and conversation strands as to the performances and readings. By turns celebratory and controversial, these talks influence the way we think about poetry. It’s a conversation that festival goers carry on long after the festival itself is over.

The StAnza Lectures have a history of their own: of creating conversations on often controversial topics that spill over into the press and the blogosphere.  On Friday 18th, Robert Crawford brings ancient poetry bang up to date with his lecture: ‘Simonides and the War on Terror’. The Greek poet was famous for his commemorations of those who fell in battle and Crawford looks at contemporary concerns for the casualties of terrorism – civilian and military.

The festival themes and other topics get mulled over during the Poetry Breakfast series brings together poets, critics and academics – experts in their fields. The 400th anniversary of the King James Bible reminds us that this is arguably one of the most influential literary texts in English. Poet (and Poetry Review editor) Fiona Sampson joins in the discussion on Friday 18th.  On Saturday 19th the Timepiece theme gets ticking again with the help of poets Hugh McMillan and newcomer Anna Woodford among others. As with all the Breakfasts, the audience get their say too, over the coffee and pastries.

It is often (too often) said that poetry is what gets lost in translation. Sunday’s Poetry Breakfast may well turn that notion on its head: Gaelic poet Kevin MacNeil is presenting some new translations especially commissioned by StAnza, and he will be joined in discussion by Don Paterson (who has major versions of Machado and Rilke under his belt) and Australian poets Tom Petsinis, Lidija Šimkutė, of Greek and  Lithuanian extraction, respectively. That’s a lot of languages in the mix!

Elsewhere, there’s the chance to explore the true  stories behind the great poetry. Edwin Morgan’s biographer, James McGonigal will be in conversation about the much mourned Makar. He will be talking to Robyn Marsack of the Scottish Poetry Library, which holds the Edwin Morgan Archive.  And poet Gawain Douglas will be offering an alternative view of his great uncle Lord Alfred Douglas – Oscar Wilde’s lover – as part of his own family history.

There’s more about the talks at http://www.stanzapoetry.org. And you can keep the conversations going afterwards via blogs and Twitter (@stanzapoetry).

Shooting ten portraits of poets in a day inspired me!

11 Mar

StAnza’s Artist-in-Residence this year is the photographer Dan Philips. Here he explains how how his project came about and why the photographer’s interaction with the sitter is so important.

It was about this time last year that I first became aware of StAnza. Having photographed the previous Director Brian Johnstone, in his home, I became intrigued and so spent a day in the company of the poets last year.

And it inspired me. Shooting ten portraits in a day it struck me how this kind of photography – more than any other – is about developing relationships. Your sitter can either collaborate with you, co-operate, enjoy the process and suggest ideas, or they can resist against it, be uncommunicative, or simply feel pushed for time. And the irony is that the latter can be as productive for pictures as the former. One of my best images from last year was of Linton Kwesi Johnson in his dressing room before his performance. He’d agreed earlier in the day, but the shoot being mere minutes before him going on stage, he was obviously pushed for time. I think the tension shows in his face and I love the picture.

So my residency is about bringing this relationship to the fore. After shooting each portrait I’ll ask each sitter to perform an ‘intervention’ on the printed image. I’ll give them some pens and what they do is up to them. They can ‘respect’ the image, or they can mock it.

And with StAnza being so clued up online those that can only visit for a day or two will be able to see the continued works on the StAnza Flickr stream, on Twitter, and on this blog.

You can see some of Dan’s previous work, including the portrait of Linton Kwesi Johnson, here.

Poetry and genealogy, or how I learned to stop worrying and celebrate my grannie

9 Mar

Guest blogger Claire Askew explains how the women in her family have chronicled their own histories and inspired her poetry – especially her storytelling grandmother.

One of the themes of this year’s StAnza is Timepiece, or “the dynamic between verse and the recorded and unrecorded past.”  It seems fitting, then, that this year will see my StAnza performance debut (in previous years I’ve been too shy even to step up to the Open Mic), as I am somewhat obsessed with exploring the past, and mostly the unrecorded past, in the poems I write.

I come from a large, eccentric, mongrel family, which is predominantly northern English/southern Scottish.  On my mother’s side, I’m directly related to the infamous border Armstrongs; on my father’s side there’s a whole mix of old Lakeland tribes, with a few wild cards (including a mysterious Romany gypsy) thrown in for good measure.

My family is dominated by its women.  There are an awful lot of us – my mother has three sisters, I am one of two girls and have countless female cousins – and that’s just the past two generations.  However, the women in my family also tend to be storytellers: carriers for gossip, anecdote, morality and myth.  We’re all obsessed with genealogy and love nothing better than sitting around, telling and re-telling old stories we’ve all heard a thousand times before.  And apparently, we’ve been like this for decades.

It seems women of my family are throwbacks to a bygone era of predominantly oral culture, when fireside storytelling – almost always a female activity – was the primary means of keeping the memory of relatives alive.  Take my maternal grandmother, for example – a hard-nosed, determined Northern woman who smoked like a chimney, swore like a sailor and always told you exactly what she thought of you.  She was one hell of a handful, and no one in the family had a relationship with her that wasn’t painfully complicated.  However, she knew how to spin a good story, and after she died a few years ago, she immediately started becoming one – woven inextricably into the latest chapter of family mythology.  She appears again and again in my work.  Sometimes she’s quite obviously at the forefront of things – it’s her talking, taking control as she so often did.  Sometimes I’m talking to her, or about her – sometimes the jokes are at her expense.  Sometimes she’s just there on the periphery, chucking in one of her infamous sayings to colour a stanza or two: “you’ve been brought up in a bottle and seen nowt but cork!” For me, family history isn’t just inescapable – it’s a goldmine of great material I’d be nuts to ignore.

Claire Askew will be reading at StAnza’s New Poets’ Showcase at 12.45pm, The Town Hall, St Andrews on Friday 18 March. There’s more about Claire and her grandmother here.

(Photo by Alastair Cook)

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