We were thrilled to welcome Clive Birnie to StAnza 2016 as StAnza's first ever HashtagPoet# in residence. None of us (neither we at StAnza, nor Clive) quite knew what exact shape the collaboration would take, and we were delighted by the resonance with which Clive's bizarre and beautiful creations were met. A guest blog post by Clive and a glimpse behind the curtains of this most modern of Dadaist techniques
The Three Day Residency that Lasted Three Months
It is three months this week since I travelled north to St Andrews for the StAnza International Poetry Festival. I had been asked by Eleanor Livingstone and Annie Rutherford both to adapt my HashtagPoetry# project into an installation to be projected inside the cafe and foyer of the Byre theatre (the heart and home of the festival) and also to be HashtagPoet# in residence. This latter element required me to create and post new HashtagPoems# during the festival. The result was 28 pieces posted over four days on Instagram and Twitter which were viewed around 17,000 times.
I have been asked by a number of people since how I approached the residency – due I think to the number of pieces I posted and also I think from raw curiosity. In asking me they are also enquiring of themselves, how would I approach it were I asked. My approach had three elements:
The first was to hunt out the Twitter streams of other poets participating in the festival and create pieces from screen shots of their tweets. In a sense I made poems from the words that other poets threw away. My favourite example is this Triptych made from the timeline of Stephen Fowler.
© Clive Birnie
I concentrated on this ahead of the festival and stacked up screen shots from Twitter. Some (although a minority) I redacted and painted into finished pieces ahead of the festival but the rest were completed either during the journey north or in St Andrews. I felt it was important that as much of the work as possible was completed within the environment of the festival. The downside of this was that it meant that sometimes I took myself off to work on poems and missed a few events that I now curse myself for missing. Such is the dilemma of the poet in residence: a subtle tension between the duty you feel as a member of the festival team and the urge to submerge yourself in all the great things happening around you. I also tried to stay true to the concept that underpinned the HashtagPoetry# project – the sense that we live in an age of cut-up and fragment and the montage we absorb through our senses is real life. A snip of this, a snatch of that. Half started conversations, things overheard, words and images glimpsed, barely grasped and then recycled as art.
The second approach was to respond to the themes events of the festival or to simply post something that was in synch with the real time of the festival e.g. to reflect the poetry breakfast events:
© Clive Birnie
The third might be called everything else. Things triggered by the journey north as with the “Dada-jam-sky” piece which I made on the plane but also included this piece which I made for my fellow poet in residence Harry Man.
© Clive Birnie
The fourth element... yes I know I said three but the fourth is something that spilled over into the weeks that followed. You see, although I was only physically at StAnza for 72 hours the intellectual residency has carried on. This is the magic of StAnza. It wasn't just the dialogue with Harry, or with Scott Tyrell over a coffee or the many many fragments of (still) unfinished conversations. It was going for posh fish and chips with Jo Bell, Tania Hershman, Kevin Reid, Justin Stephenson and Ryan Van Winkle and talking about Aase Berg talking about translation. It was sitting on the bus heading back to the airport chatting with Nora Gomringer whose performance I had missed (dammit). It was the accidental poem passengers were writing on a customer feedback whiteboard in the security zone at the airport. It was... overwhelming. I appreciate this is not a coherent explanation. Ask me again in a year or two but for now to an extent the residency has not yet ended. I have not yet finished untangling the threads, and exploring where they take me. Hence after a fews days off I started posting new pieces in March and then one a day through April (HashPoWriMo anyone?) and then spent most of May making this 26 piece response to Nora Gomringer's 'Ursprungsalphabet'.
Where next? Let's see where June takes me but the first thing I made when I arrived home back in March was this poem, 'Aurora', which was printed on Impossible Instant Film and I have just taken delivery of something called an Impossible Universal Lab which prints images from a smartphone onto polaroid-style instant-film.
© Clive Birnie
You can signup to receive a free ebook HashtagPoetry# the StAnza edition which collects the work Clive posted during StAnza here (an automated email will be sent with the links for different ebook formats).
Less than three months on from StAnza 2016, and our poetry antennae are already twitching in anticipation of the delights that we’re putting together for you next year. It’s always nice to take a moment to relive what’s gone before though. So we were thrilled to stumble across this gem of a podcast in which the Scottish Poetry Library’s JL Williams interviews our 2016 headliner Nora Gomringer at StAnza. Whether you were mesmerised by Nora’s exuberant Saturday night performance or are kicking yourself for missing it – we recommend you treat your ears and have a listen.
Nora Gomringer with Philipp Scholz at StAnza 2016: photo by Terry Lee
We are handing this blog space over to the winner of this year's Digital Slam, Stephen Watt from Dumbarton. Check out his winning StAnza Digital Slam performance at http://stanzapoetry.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/2014-stanza-digital-slam-re....
In this post, Stephen tells us a little about his background, his favourite poets and what he's doing performance wise in the lively poetry and spoken work scene.
Social realism, punk, story-telling, romance, and nostalgia; in a way, these are the things which drive me. If I could write something as masterly as (Carol Ann) Duffy’s “Queen Kong” or as spirited as (John) Cooper-Clarke’s “Beasley Street”, then I would plant a flag in it and begin my own niche.
I am from Dumbarton, on the outskirts of Glasgow. At the age of 19, I began writing poetry into a little notebook after listening to a bin lorry roll down my parent’s street. Within six months, I had been assaulted by drug addicts on two occasions – once with a needle held to my face, the other with a knife pressed into my neck. My counsellor advised that the writing was an excellent form of therapy, and so I continued to write a number of poems around this time. As a very shy and quiet child, it was an easy thing for me to spend time alone with my own thoughts, writing, dreaming, thinking..... Quite often using music to influence my mood, whilst listening to the wistful lyrics of Ian Dury, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Mark E Smith and Seething Wells to list a few.
My grandfather had been a poet, writing a book of personal love poems to my grandmother in 1937. I never knew this until my mum alerted me to the fact this book existed – and was written when he was 19 – the same age that I had began writing. It was then I slowly began to come out of my shell. I would watch people around Dumbarton and Glasgow, exaggerating their characters to fill taboo subjects such as brothels, rent boys, domestic violence, etc. Small press magazines across the UK published a number of my poems about these subjects. Having gained confidence during my twenties from this relative success, and with an exceptional circle of friends supporting my writing, I ventured into the literary / spoken word scene in Glasgow in 2010 – nearly a full decade after I had first began scribbling down my thoughts. Since then, things really lifted off. I travelled to Peterborough in 2011 to beat 8,000 entrants by winning the Poetry Rivals Slam, earning a one book publishing contract with Bonacia Ltd, and releasing my debut collection “Spit” one year later. Further awards both on page and stage have been achieved over the last two years but perhaps the greatest satisfaction of all is the number of inspiring, exciting, and inventive poets emerging from Scotland, encompassing all ages and creeds, seemingly all at the same time. It is something I enjoy being part of enormously, and challenges the old caveat that poetry is a one person game.
I have just finished performing at a number of magazine launches and festivals across the country, but should anyone wish to follow me or keep an eye on what happens next, then they can find my ‘Spit’ poetry pages on Facebook and Twitter at:
StAnza 2014 Slam, photo by Helena Fornells Nadal
In third place: Ama Asantewa Diaka
In second place: Batsirai Chigama
And the WINNER of our 2014 Digital Slam is: Stephen Watt
Congratulations to Stephen! Look out for a special blog about him in a week or so. In the meantime, here’s the winning performance:
4. Stephen Watt (Dumbarton)
And if this has whetted your appetite for slam, don't forget the heats of this year's BBC Edinburgh Slam at the Fringe, in which StAnza's Eleanor Livingstone is again a judge, are currently taking place every evening until Thursday at 8.15pm in the Pink Bubble at Potterrow. The final is at 8.00pm for 8.30pm on Saturday in the Blue Bubble. It's all free but the Saturday final is free-but-ticketed (see link below). In last night's first heat, the finalist were Amanda Baker, StAnza 2014 Digital Slam finalist Chris Young and Miko Berry. Amanda Baker was the winner and she'll go forward to Saturday's final, which we understand will be live streamed for those who can't get there non-virtually.
Thanks to everyone who took part this year’s Digital Slam, and a special thanks to our partners at the Badilisha Poetry X-change!
The judges have had a tricky time whittling them down to a final ten. But whittle down they did and so we are delighted to present this year’s shortlist . . .
Scroll down through the entries, click ‘play’, and feast your eyes/ears.
And don’t forget, once you’ve done that, click on our voting widget to register your support for your favourite poet/spoken word artist.
The voting is open from now till 5pm (BST) Monday 11 August.
One vote per person. But if you’ve already voted, spread the word . . .
We’ll announce the winner soon after voting closes on the 11th.
1. Kyle Louw (Cape Town)
2. Batsirai Chigama (Harare)
3. Ama Asantewa Diaka (Ghana)
4. Stephen Watt (Dumbarton)
5. Chris Young (Glasgow)
6. Alexander Velky (Pembrokeshire)
7. Stephanie Arsoska (Kirriemuir)
8. Tracey S. Rosenberg (Edinburgh)
9. Steve Smart (Dundee)
10. Josephine Pizer (Portobello)
UPDATE (11 Aug)
Voting has now closed. Thanks to everyone who took part!
Just two days left to enter this year's Digital Slam. The deadline for emailing us links to your online video or audio clips is midnight Sunday our time. Don't miss it! Full details at http://stanzapoetry.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/slam-with-stanza-online/ but in summary, we're looking for recordings which are no more than 3 years old and no longer than 4 minutes. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll post a shortlist of the best and invite the whole world to vote on their favourite. What are you waiting for?