The StAnza Lecture 2012: Lavinia Greenlaw - A Good Argument: A Sudden Blow
I’ve never been to a lecture where there was standing room only before. In fact, I’ve never even heard of a lecture that was that popular. Lectures are supposed to be moth-eaten little things aren’t they?
Lavinia Greenlaw’s lecture on Thursday was far from moth-eaten. It was freshly squeezed.
The argument of A Good Argument (see what I did there?) is that a poem makes an argument for seeing the world from another angle. It does this not through deduction or simple seduction – although these are useful techniques – but through “argument as experience,” which is beyond visceral reason. There is a underlying violence to the poetic argument, no matter how sugar-coated it might be. Ultimately, the poem persuades the reader by making them feel its point of view rather than just telling them about it – it has to invade your personal space.
Poems can tap into the raw properties of language to ensnare the reader. Some of the techniques Lavinia explored in her lecture were slippage (for example, between formal and informal language), noise, and unsettlement. “Narrative,”says Lavinia, “is the surface of the poem for me.”
By using examples – the subtitle “A Sudden Blow” is from the first line of Yeats’ “Leda and The Swan” - Lavinia cleverly illustrated her points by helping the audience experience them in the poems used. The example, of course, being a prime example of an experience-based argument rather than a reason based one. It’s not for nothing that she is a Professor of creative writing at UEA...
Lavinia’s lecture has been the subject of much debate around the StAnza venues and will no doubt continue to be a hot topic over the coming days.
Scattered Like Seeds All Around the Byre
One of my favourite things about StAnza – and as a StAnza freshman I have fresh eyes on all this – is the brilliantly vibrant atmosphere that develops around the StAnza venues, especially the Byre Theatre.
Whether you’re being surprised by one of the Murmur Line installations by Holly Pester breathing down your next, debating the influence of T.S. Elliot on Lana Del Ray with a passing poet, or simply watching the projections of poems and photos on the bar wall, there is always something to see and someone to talk to. And that’s without factoring in the fourteen plus programmed events that went on during Thursday.
My favourite attraction – some might say distraction – in the Byre is the Scattered Like Seeds exhibit from Sacramento’s Poems-For-All. You have to see them to believe them:
You see those tiny wee squares of colour dotted in among the Wall of Fame? They are mini poetry books, my friends – very slim volumes.
They’re ubiquitous about the festival. They Byre serves them with cappuccinos like mint chocolates in a hotel. I’ve collected so many that whenever I take out my mobile phone a shower of baby poetry books sprays out of my pocket.
I’m told there there are more than a thousand varieties of microbooks, and that every one of them has its own little cover design. The poems range from frivolous to serious – but you’ll have to read them to find your favourites.
Live Webcasts Saturday!
There will be two LIVE WEBCASTS (Saturday). Poetry Breakfast LIVE at 10am and Sharks LIVE at 7.40pm, GMT.
I’m overexcited about Poetry Breakfast already, because I will be live tweeting during the show. If you have any questions you’d like to ask one of the panellists - Robert Crawford, Norman McBeath, Lavinia Greenlaw and Michael Symmons Roberts –then you’ll be able to tweet them to me @stanzapoetry before or during the show to be posed during the Q&A at the end.
No tongue twisters please.
As the washing machine of time trundles ever closer to the end of the spin cycle, this 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-20-22and join the StAnza conversation using #StAnza12.
I’m available for stalking atwww.james-t-harding.comand on Twitter @empowermint.
Photos in this post were taken by John Starr, who also maintains a website atwww.starrphotographic.com.