Book Week Scotland: Writing Rebellion

Friday 7 September 2018, 14:15

The nights are drawing in and autumn is in the air - which means we're looking forward to Book Week Scotland! To celebrate BWS, which this year is exploring the theme of 'rebellion', we're running a workshop with the award-winning poet Hugh McMillan.

Join us as we read and write poetry on the theme of rebellion. We’ll be asking how poets have historically responded to and engaged with protest in their times – be it political, social or religious – in order to explore how poetry can be political without being polemical. We’ll then use this as a starting point to produce new work.

Hugh McMillan has seen his work published widely in Scotland and beyond. He’s won a number of awards for his poetry, most recently the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award in 2017, and has published six full-length collections, in addition to numerous pamphlets. His most recent collection, Heliopolis, appeared in 2018.

When - 11:00 - 13:00, Tuesday 20 November

Where - Public Library, Church Square, St Andrews

Tickets - free but ticketed, please email, or phone 07391 247 661

Categories: News

Poetic highlights at the Fringe

Wednesday 15 August 2018, 18:44

Are you planning a festival visit and feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the poetry and spoken word on offer? Help is at hand: we’ve picked out a few highlights to see you through.

There are plenty of poetry shows showcasing a range of different performers, which can be a great way of discovering new favourites, whose full-length shows you might want to check out. We’re particular fans of Other Voices, a cabaret-style open mic dedicated to amplifying voices less heard, and She Grrrowls, a feminist arts night with regular feature sets as well as an open mic.

BBC Edinburgh Fringe Poetry Slam

Another great place to discover new voices is the annual BBC slam, which brings together talent from across the UK for some hot competition. The heats for this are already underway, but you can catch the last three heats each week-night this week (8.30pm at the BBC grounds outside George Heriot), or nab yourself a ticket to the grand final on Sunday (which is free but ticketed) to see who’s crowned a winner.

This Script and Other Drafts

A spoken word show from that powerhouse of Scottish performance poetry, Jenny Lindsay (StAnza 2018), This Script and Other Drafts promises a particularly pertinent look at sex, gender and feminism. With a voice which is as eloquent as it is defiant, the show mixes poetry, polemics and plenty of laughs. Over the past few years, Lindsay’s mainly been known for her showcasing and championing of other spoken word artists, so the chance to see her perform in her own show is a rare joy. Find out more and buy tickets here.

Elvis McGonagall: Full Tartan Jacket

If you like your poetry sharp as a tack with a healthy dose of acerbic wit, then Elvis McGonagall’s (StAnza 2015) free fringe show is for you. A consummate performer with a real stage presence, the former world slam champion never disappoints. More info here.

Loud Poets: The Fantastical Game Show Spectacular

You’re always guaranteed a slick, highly conceptualised (and, yes, loud) experience with the Loud Poets’ (StAnza 2017) fringe show, and this year is no exception. Each night the Edinburgh-based collective perform alongside guest poets from the local and national stage in a “fantastical game show spectacular”. No, we don’t know what that means either. But we’re pretty sure it’s going to be great. For more information and to buy tickets, check out the Fringe website.

147Hz can’t pass

This spoken word show by Ink Asher Hemp, a relative newcomer to the Scottish poetry scene, is well worth checking out. Making good use of a minimal set and simple videos, 147Hz can’t pass really shows off the potential of spoken word. Hemp’s performance is strikingly direct and immediate, and their exploration of transgender and non-binary topics is often beautiful, sometimes funny and always necessary. Tickets and more information here.


Of course, there’s plenty of poetry going on outside of the Scottish capital as well! If you’re enjoying the summer in London and missed her at StAnza 2018, do check out Hannah Raymond-Cox’s solo show, Polaris, on 19th and 20th August. A queer coming of age story with dark humour and some wonderful evocations of foods, the show really makes clear why Hannah nabbed the title of StAnza slam champion 2016. Get your tickets while they last!

Categories: News

Necessarily Looking Backward

Tuesday 14 August 2018, 21:15

PDF icon Necessarily Looking Backward - an e-book of poems inspired by Muriel Spark.pdf

We have hugely enjoyed being part of the Muriel Spark 100 celebrations in 2018 to mark the centenary of such a favourite Scottish writer. Though nowadays remembered more for her twenty-two novels, she started her writing career as a poet and was editor of Poetry Review.

To celebrate her legacy as a Scottish writer, and in partnership with Polygon, the Poetry Society and British Council, we commissioned six poets to write poems responding to quotes from a selection of Muriel Spark novels. The poets selected were Andrew Blair, Lyn Coffin, Patrick James Errington, Sally Evans, Lindsay Macgregor and Catherine Wilson.

Under the title of Necessarily Looking Backward, the poems they wrote for this project featured in a digital installation at this year’s StAnza festival, and at an event about the project. They also appeared elsewhere in poem panels around town.

As a finale to this StAnza project, we have now prepared an e-book of the poems, presented with the quotes which inspired them and images of the covers from the new editions of the novels. The e-book is available online at the following link, and we hope others now share our enjoyment in these six poems.

PDF icon Necessarily Looking Backward - an e-book of poems inspired by Muriel Spark.pdf

Categories: News

Poetry at Edinburgh International Book Festival

Monday 13 August 2018, 11:53

Thanks again to Edinburgh International Book Festival for the free tickets we were able to offer to StAnza followers. They were snapped up quickly and we now only have one pair left, for Andrew McMillan and J.O. Morgan on 17 August. They were both big hits at StAnza, in 2017 and 2014 respectively, and getting to hear them both together will be a real treat. Read on for more information about this.


For StAnza audiences there are some familiar and welcome names among the poets coming to Edinburgh this month, and some interesting new names as well. You can browse the full list of poetry events at the 2018 Edinburgh Book Festival here.

To book tickets, or find more information, visit the Book Festival’s website or call the Box Office on 0345 373 5888.

1. Sasha Dugdale & Jenni Fagan
Mon 13 August at 8.30pm
‘This is not narrative, this is time boiling over’, explains one reviewer of Sasha Dugdale’s poetry. It’s a style put to brilliant use in Dugdale’s new collection, Joy. It’s also an apt description of the Truth Poem Jenni Fagan wrote while in America for the Book Festival’s 2017 Outriders project. Today, Fagan brings her new collection The Witch in the Word Machine, an exploration of words as spells, incantations, curse and solace. These viscerally performative poets come together to present their work.
Buy Tickets

2. Imtiaz Dharker & Zaffar Kunial
Thu 16 August at 7.00pm
Was British identity ever more fascinatingly complex? Queen's Gold Medal-winning poet Imtiaz Dharker presents Luck is the Hook, a collection which draws on themes of her own exile, displacement and quest for a sense of home. Zaffar Kunial, a rising star of British poetry, explores identity and his upbringing by an English mother and a Lahore-based Kashmiri father, in his debut collection Us.
Buy Tickets

3. Andrew McMillan & J O Morgan
Fri 17 August at 3.30pm
The poetic ingenuity of these two British writers is putting them on the international map. Andrew McMillan launches Playtime, the much-anticipated follow-up to his award-winning hymn to the male body, Physical. Borders-based J O Morgan’s new collection feels like a companion piece to At Maldon, his formidably-accomplished 10th century battle saga. Assurances is a reflection on the spectre of nuclear war.
Buy Tickets if you’re not lucky enough to win the last pair going free. To take advantage of this great offer email . Tickets will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

4. Salena Godden & Molly Naylor
Sat 18 August at 6.45pm
Meet two of the sharpest, wittiest voices from the spoken word scene. Famed for her electrifying live performances, poet, memoirist and broadcaster Salena Godden’s spoken word album LIVEWire was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award 2017. Poet, scriptwriter and theatre-maker Molly Naylor’s first collection Badminton — part confession, part manifesto — is filled with poems that speak frankly and boldly about learning how to live.
Buy Tickets

5. Inua Ellams
Sun 19 August at 5.45pm
A captivating hour with award-winning playwright and poet Inua Ellams as he performs selections from his 2017 Ted Hughes Award shortlisted work #Afterhours. His residency at the Southbank Poetry Library took him on a voyage through time and place to the heart of the library’s archive and through his own life story, selecting and responding to poems published during each of the first 18 years of his life.
Buy Tickets

6. John Burnside & Tishani Doshi
Mon 20 August at 4.00pm
John Burnside is one of our most decorated poets. A winner of the T S Eliot and Forward Prizes, his latest collection, Still Life with Feeding Snake, is typically profound, haunting and mysterious. He's joined by Indian poet and dancer Tishani Doshi, whose new collection Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods was described as 'essential, immediate, urgent work' by Burnside himself. Prepare for a breathtaking hour of verse.
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7. J R Carpenter & Kathleen Jamie with Tania Kovats
Thu 23 August at 7.15pm
Published in 1951, Rachel Carson’s The Sea Around Us remains essential reading. Although it describes the oceans from a marine biologist’s perspective, it's also renowned for its immersive prose, evoking the sea as a place of wonder and mystery. Visual artist Tania Kovats talks about the poetry of the oceans, a subject important to her practice and writing, with renowned poets Kathleen Jamie and J R Carpenter, whose debut collection is An Ocean of Static.
Buy Tickets

8. Owen Sheers
Sat 25 August at 7.15pm
To mark the 70th anniversary of the National Health Service, join the award-winning author and poet Owen Sheers, who has created the film-poem To Provide All People. Based upon 70 hours of interviews, it documents the history of the NHS’s birth in 1948 and tells the intimate story of its daily life through 24 hours in a regional hospital. Personal, political, poetic, it charts an emotional and philosophical map from patients to surgeons, porters to midwives.
Buy Tickets

Whatever you go to, if you're in Edinburgh this month, I hope you enjoy it. And do pick up a copy of our 2018 save-the-date bookmark which should be available in the Book Festival entrance area.

Categories: News

StAnza 2018 in glorious images and words

Sunday 20 May 2018, 12:43

Maud Vanhauwaert by David Vallis Photography

David Vallis Photography

As we move from spring to summer, it has given us such pleasure to find so many wonderful photographs from StAnza 2018, and to discover links to articles, videos and podcasts from this year’s very successful festival. In due course we’ll create an Afterword Page with these, but meantime I wanted to share some links. As the sun seems to have gone behind a cloud today, what better than a chance to look back at this year’s festival, and at some of its legacies.

We have been especially lucky this year to have multiple articles posted online by our StAnza 2018 Poet in Residence, the Gaelic/Scots poet David Eyre, and by our Guest Cycling Frisian Blogger from the Netherlands, Geart Tigchelaar, as well as from our own In House Bloggers this year, Katie Hale and Carly Brown, and we’re delighted so many other people have also written about, spoken about and filmed the festival. Thanks also to all this year's brilliant photographers. MUSA have also posted articles featuring the four poems commissioned for our collaboration with them this year, which offers another chance to read them.

For a quick summary, what better than this short video featuring personal responses to the festival.

You can also now see festival photographs in a range of galleries on Flickr, and we’re giving you these options:

You can also browse through a host of videos, podcasts and broadcasts, articles and reviews collected for you meantime in this PDF summary.
Categories: News

Judging the StAnza Slam: Saturday Reflections

Sunday 11 March 2018, 14:57

Poetry is all around us. One of the things that I love most about StAnza is that there are many unique venues where you can interact with poetry. While The Byre is the vibrant hub, you can also hear haunting and resonant words echoing off stone walls in the dimly lit, atmospheric Undercroft, as I did with Cumbrian poet Katie Hale and Chinese poet Cai Tianxin, at their Border Crossings event yesterday. As Katie Hale observed during her lyrical, evocative and gracefully paced reading, that space is like a ‘cathedral to poetry.’

Or you can munch on delicious macaroni pies and sip a pint in the comfy seats of the Byre Studio and listen to some poems during Poetry Café, as I did with the fantastic spoken word poet Sara Hirsch. Sara’s poems are candid and intimate, her delivery full of humor and heart. Perhaps because I actually do know Sara, yesterday’s Poetry Café felt like sitting across from a friend at lunch, telling you stories of their fascinating life (albeit in sharply observed, poetic way!). It was definitely a festival highlight for me. 

Or you can sit in the beautiful Byre Auditorium at a Poetry Centre Stage event and listen to a literary giant like Liz Lochhead with her wit and wisdom, leaving everyone laughing but also thinking about some deeply important and relevant themes. Two personal favorite poems of mine that she shared last night were ‘How to be the Perfect Romantic Poet’, with its cutting and hilarious first line: ‘Be born male.’ As well as ‘Photograph, Art Student, Female, Working Class’, which describes experiences of sexual harassment in the 60’s, before the vocabulary was around to articulate what was going on: ‘In sixty-six there’s plenty sex, but not ‘sexism’’. You can read the full poem here on the Scottish Poetry Library’s website:

In short, yesterday was full of great poetry and each venue at StAnza brings its own flare and feel, giving the festival a lovely and varied quality.

As Katie Hale mentioned in one of her earlier blog posts, there are as many versions of a festival as there are attendees. One must choose what to see, which events to attend, from this medley of not just poetry but also film, music, art, exhibitions, installations and more. For me, a favorite event of the festival is always the StAnza Poetry Slam, which I won back in 2013 and it essentially launched my career as a spoken word poet. It was the first major slam that I’d ever won and opened up lots of career opportunities for me (winning Scottish Nationals, competing at the World Series of Slam in Paris and placing 4th in the world, publication opportunities, etc.). Many other winners, such as Agnes Torok and Hannah Raymond-Cox, have also gone on to do amazing things, so this is definitely a launching point for a career in spoken word.

I was delighted to be asked to judge the slam, alongside Sara Hirsch and Clive Birnie, Director of Burning Eye Books. Sara’s a slam champ at both a UK and European level and a seasoned performer (as I mentioned before!). Burning Eye is a wonderful press, specializing in spoken word. So what is it like to judge The StAnza Slam, you ask? I thought it might be interesting to talk a little bit about that experience here.

At the start of the event, I enjoyed chatting with my two fellow judges about what we’re looking for in a poem, which, as we told the audience at the start of the show, is deceptively simple: we’re looking for great words and great delivery. Having judged a number of slams, I look for something that feels fresh, is engaging, full of surprising language and holds the audience.

Jo Gilbert performing in the StAnza Slam, 2018

We had a talented array of poets compete last night and I think it’s important to note that it takes so much courage and bravery to get up there and actually perform. Jo Gilbert (who, spoiler alert, WON the slam) had a great first poem about the courage it takes to do just that: to battle your inner critic to get up and read something you wrote…aloud! And then, to be judged by strangers! Before I competed in my first slam, back in 2011, I was so nervous I thought I’d pass out. And I still get nervous sometimes before sharing my work aloud (particularly new work). So congratulations to everyone involved.

In the end, Jo’s poems won the day. Her hilarious poem about trying to suppress that familiar midday desire to take a break from work to go and have a sugary snack (namely: cake) brought the house down with laughter. Having taught a performance poetry workshop that Jo was in, about a year ago, I knew she was talented from the first time I met her, but I’m delighted to see how she has grown and developed her poetry even further, commanding the stage and leaving everyone in stitches.

Congratulations as well to our runner up Emily Elderfield and to all of the poets who competed. I had a wonderful time judging and seeing some of the best emerging poets that Scotland has to offer. So congratulate yourselves, poets. We appreciated your lyricism, your humor, your clever metaphors, your turns of phrase. It was an honor to judge the event. Thank you StAnza for asking me!

There’s only one more day of the festival, but, as I write this in the Byre, the café bar is still full of people, noise and life. Glasses clink, voices mingle, and poems are projected on the walls all around me. There’s still more to come. I’m particularly looking forward to the finale party this evening, one of my other favorite parts of the festival, where everyone takes to the dance floor to celebrate the end of another wonderful year at StAnza.

By Carly Brown, In-House Blogger for StAnza 2018 (Part II)


Categories: News