Day 3: Yeah Yeah Yeah!

Friday 18 March 2011

StAnza audiences like their poetry fresh. By Jay Bernard, StAnza Artist in Residence 2010

The sun put her cloche on for us today and gazed blindingly upon our wee grey toon. Which isn't to say the wind wouldn't flail the face off you as you rounded a corner, but bright mercies! I've taken up position in the Byre Theatre to relate the happenings of the day; The Flaming Lips' 'The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song' has come on the stereo, there's some delectable poetry art work on the big screen to my left and some old friends milling around somewhere behind me - lovely symbols of another stimulating day on the poetry blogging beat.

Today, I introduced the New Poets Showcase in the Council Chambers. The blurbiage, ladies and gentlemen:

For the first time the top poets from the creative writing programmes of the major Scottish universities, the University of St Andrews (Ellen Cranitch), the University of Edinburgh (Claire Askew) and the University of Glasgow (Billy Letford), will come together with a prize winning alumnus of the 2000 Foyles Young Poet of the Year award (then the Simon Elvin Young Poets of the Year Award) (Sarah Howe), now at Cambridge University.  Come and be entertained by the voices of the future.

I must say the StAnza showcases are among my very favourite, now annual, StAnza events, an opportunity to hear a diverse range of voices and verses in one sitting. This one showcased the poets coming through the sterling work of creative writing MLitts and MScs across the country, and of the Foyle Young Poet of the Year Award (Saturday's showcase will celebrate New Writing North and StAnza's firm connections in the north-east of England). A lovely mix, a big smiley audience, Sarah's crocodile poem; Claire's pamphlet burny hot off the Red Squirrel press; Ellen's tender poetry for her late mother; Billy's Burnsian rendering of a midge bite, a broad and impressive range.

While in the Byre foyer, after a tasty soup (foodie alert: tomato!) with StAnza press officer, the wonderful Annie Kelly, I was oxter-cogged by the Dumfries and Galloway mafia, in the form of Hugh Bryden and poet Jean Atkin to use my spare 15 minutes wisely and well, by repairing to the Preservation Trust Museum for a guided tour of Hugh's Ronacadora exhibition, In Black and White! Sometimes one is simply in the right place at the right time! Deep joy, the sun streaming through the windows, Hugh explaining how the complex making of Jean's book appeared to him a dream (Hugh: illustrator and publisher by day, seer by night...), of how he and Hugh McMillan, heading to London in 2010 for the Michael Marks Awards for poetry pamphlets, designed their Willow Pattern collaboration on the paper plate saved from a tea and toastie stop: when the muse strikes! Some pics, of Hugh and Jean and the fine work of Roncadora Press, below.

Today Bob Holman, ('Poetry Czar' and founder in 2002 of the Bowery Poetry Club in downtown Manhattan) and his fantastic spectacles rocked into town. He immediately went on the prowl for a kilt. Today I had a bottle of Coca Cola with a straw in it, an ice cream from Janetta's Ice Cream Emporium, having dispatched the brave Jo Bell there for an impromptu performance to a snaking queue and played musical chairs at dinner, as we invited lone poets to break bread - or the Byre's fab beef bourguignon - at our table. While dining, I got a tiny insight into the fascinating world of translation: did you know that the Welsh word for microwave is popty ping? And if you did, did you know it isn't solely for onomatopoeic reasons, but that it literally translates as "the oven that goes ping"? Isn't that marvellous? When words collide! Also marvellous, in a news just in kind of way, is the Belgian chocolate I've just consumed, a gift from Ghent and Krikri's Helen and Jelle.

I enjoyed today's 5 O'Clock Verses with Tom Petsinis and Kevin Young, enjoyed talking about silence - awkward and comforting - with Rachael and Patricia, enjoyed my small stature fails to ignite the Byre electronic door, enjoyed many fine sightings of brogues, enjoyed a passing South Street chatette with my former tutor, the ineffable Douglas Dunn, who's centre stage on Sunday evening at 8pm with Ciaran Carson, and enjoyed being part of five simultaneous conversations  - involving jogging, disco, J Alfred Prufrock, cupcakes and an imminent event - on the Byre couches; a skill only the hardened StAnza comer will have mastered...

I leave you in anticipation of tonight's Risk A Verse (see what we did!) Open Mic, due to begin at 10.15pm (if you're within running distance, come!), and more cheese, upon which a pack of students, here for the mic, have gleefully descended like seagulls on chips) and the dulcet tones of Tina Turner, 'What's Love Got To Do With It?' blasting from the speakers... The beat goes on!

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