James T Harding is a freelance writer and, believe it or not, a StAnza newbie. We couldn't resist asking him to be our festival blogger this year - casting a fresh eye on our activities in our 14th year. Here's James's take on the launch day, with photos from John Starr.
We Have Lift Off!
There were a lot of people at the launch party for StAnza last night. It was a bit scary, actually.
The first sign of trouble was the table of wine glasses set out by the lovely staff of the Byre Theatre. In my naivety, I thought that the Byre were being a little over-zealous. I imagined the bar staff laying out that extra crate of glasses with a “better safe than sorry,” or maybe even a “we’ve carried them up the stairs now, we might as well use them.”
In the event, however, all of the wine glasses were needed. The Byre Theatre’s lobby was jam packed for the launch ceremony with Eleanor Livingstone, our Festival Director and Alastair Moffat, the new Rector of St Andrews University.
It turns out that not only do the Byre staff more than know what they are doing – which is hardly surprising – but that the StAnza festival is going to bigger and better than ever before. Which isn’t actually very surprising either.
As well as an abundance of applause and glasses clinking - and the exciting announcement that the StAnza archives are to be looked after by the University of St Andrews Library - we were treated to poems from Lavinia Greenlaw and Kwame Dawes.
Lavinia came down to the Byre after her all-day poetry workshop at Balmungo House (I’m told it’s a sort of architectural Mecca of country houses) to read us “Cutter”, a poem about poetry. “I normally apologise for reading a poem about poetry,” said Lavinia, “but I don’t think I need to do that here.”
Kwame Dawes performed “Elegy for Herouy”, warning the audience that he doesn’t perform it very often so it might be a little rusty. It was brilliant, of course.
Kind of Larkin
I’m not going to lie to you, there were a few stragglers who stayed in the Byre lobby to polish off the remains of the launch wine, but most people headed into the Auditorium to hear David Hayman and the Dave Batchelor Quintet perform Kind of Larkin.
You can hear a teensy clip of Larkin’s thoughts on the blues here:
In the red corner we have Phillip Larkin, jazz critic for the Telegraph - known to StAnza heads for his poetry of course. In the blue corner we have... modern jazz.
Poor modern jazz doesn’t get much of a chance to defend itself against Larkin’s “I still can’t imagine how anyone could listen to a Coltrane record for pleasure!”and other gems.
The Dave Batchelor Quintet managed to hold their own with their impersonations of everyone from Armstrong to the Bird. The drummer in particular was really having fun with the set.
Picks for Day Two
Lavinia Greenlaw is giving a lecture on rhetoric in poetry (and poetry in rhetoric?) at 3.30pm today that I’m particularly looking forward to.
John Burnside, whom I last saw at the prize readings for this year’s T.S. Elliot Prize, is giving a round table reading at 3.45pm which will no doubt be a highlight for the lucky few who managed to grab tickets.
I’ll certainly be at the Poetry Café this evening, which is presented in conjunction with the year-round Thursday jazz night at the Byre.
Sadly, today’s blog post has come to an end...
Never fear! You can follow my Storify timeline of the pick of the pics, best links, tweets and boos surrounding StAnza here: http://storify.com/empowermint/stanza-scotland-s-international-poetry-festival-20-22 and join the StAnza conversation using #StAnza12.
I’m available for stalking at www.james-t-harding.com and on Twitter @empowermint.
Photos in this post were taken by John Starr, who also maintains a website at www.starrphotographic.com