James on Day 4: An Iconic Poetry Café Breakfast, Poetry Digest (Literally) and Rozalie Hirs’ Pulsars

Saturday 17 March 2012

Poetry Café Breakfast: Iconic

In our four Breakfast panellists, Robert Crawford, Norman McBeath, Michael Symmons Roberts and Lavinia Greenlaw, we have three professors of poetry and an internationally exhibited photographer. Who better to discuss the “iconic image”?

Presentations on Russian Orthodox icons – which are meant to be looked through rather than at – the problem of analogy, and the interaction of photography with poetry were made for the packed live audience, webcast, and television screening in the Byre.

A mini-highlight for me, and perhaps for others too young to have been watching TV in 1966, was  the discussion of the Lord Privy Seal technique. “Is this the best way for a poet and a film-maker to collaborate?” the panellists asked:


“Nope,” they answered.

Prompted by Lavinia Greenlaw, the discussion also took a scientific turn. New technologies, like genome mapping, present the poet with a brilliant opportunity: they have never been described before. Genome mapping is an interesting example because the cartographic metaphor is has been engrained within the technology itself.

This idea opened up a wider argument about the relationship of science and poetry. Is science just a source of imagery and subject matter to be plundered, or does the power of scientific metaphor and abstraction have wider repercussion for the way we should communicate through poetry?

Poetry Digest

Most magazine are edible, if you take out the staples first, but few are actually pleasant to eat. Poetry Digest is one such gastronomic experiences –this mealtime magazine comes printed on cupcakes, empire biscuits, and for the healthy amongst us apples, bananas and grapes.

The wonderful Poetry Digest have been providing StAnza heads with poetic nourishment all this week – at the Poetry Breakfasts, and now at the Poets’ Market on Saturday.

Meeting poet Isabel Dixon for the first time and being able to say “I ate one of your poems” was a wonderful experience for me. If ever you get the chance to do this yourself, I recommend you learn from my mistakes and don’t adopt a Cockney accent for the occasion.

Rozalie Hirs: Pulsars

I think the best way to describe Rozalie Hirs work is just to give you an example. You can download the interactive version of “Family Tree” here: http://collection.eliterature.org/2/works/00_hirs.html

The poem has now been translated into eight languages, and Rozalie gave us a reading in three of them, as well as showing us the interactive exhibit I link to above. The poem is about the stories that “swarm around us”while we’re growing up.

Her ability to work in different languages – and the abundance of translations she has arranged of her poetry – has allowed her to explore the sound of language as well as it’s meaning. In “Bridge of Babel”, for example, she uses quotations from poetry in more than twenty languages.

Meditative soundscapes built from voice recordings swell up around Rozalie as she performs her echo poems. A composer as well as a poet, most of Rozalie’s works couldn’t be categorised as either compositions or poems. They’re somewhere in between – something which I found very stimulating.


As the water cooler of time prepares to flash the low-water-level alert light, so 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-20-22and join the StAnza conversation using #StAnza12.

I’m available for stalking at www.james-t-harding.comand on Twitter @empowermint.