Scottish poetry is thriving as never before, according to Alan Bissett, co-editor, with Carl MacDougall, of the 28th issue of New Writing Scotland. ‘The higher quality of the poetry among the entries was very noticeable,’ says Bissett, a phenomenon he thinks may be partly an artistic response to tougher economic times. Stone Going Home Again, which was given a pre-festival launch this week at Edinburgh’s Blackwells bookshop, includes poems and fiction that reflects the vitality and linguistic diversity of Scotland.
Among the poetic gems are Graham Fulton’s bus monologue, Dorothy Alexander’s Borders ‘micro-narratives’, Ryan van Winkle’s meditation on a line by Kenny Richey, and poems by Gerda Stevenson, Patricia Ace, Tracey S. Rosenberg, and StAnza’s Jim Carruth and Colin Fraser. There is still time to submit for 2011: the closing date is 30 September. For details, click here.
Scotland’s festival season is a reminder that culture is something to be celebrated and art forms such as poetry and literature are far from being confined to the page.
Latest purveyor of on-trend live literature happenings on the Edinburgh and Glasgow scene is Forge of the Wordsmiths, a new writing social club that mixes story, poetry, music, visuals and performance. Their Garden Party at Sandeman House, Edinburgh, last month, featured some wild and witty poetry and prose Manifestations (I liked Booki$m, which wants to make books the new currency and solve the credit crunch), plus superbly sharp, short fiction from Gavin Inglis and an array of musical maestros.
The next meeting will be at The Flying Duck, Glasgow, 29th August and the call is out for Three Minute Heroes to appear in poetry and fiction slots, and – for longer performances – new multimedia collaborations. Click here for details.
There was plenty of poetry on offer at The Big Tent festival which took place at Falkland in Fife last weekend. StAnza’s own Brian Johnstone and Anna Crowe were both giving readings with a line-up of other poets, including Mandy Haggith, who took part in the StAnza slam this year, and Gerry Loose, whose exhibition of plant labels, A rose is a rose is a ... at the Preservation Trust Museum and around St Andrews, continued on after the festival into June.
The Foyle Young Poets competition
Tomorrow is the closing date for the Foyle competition for young poets but if you know any talented young poets aged 11 to 17, they still have time to enter online. The competition is open to young poets from around the world, and it would be great to see some from Scotland in this year's top 15.
StAnza poets shortlisted for poetry prizes
Heading this year’s shortlist for the Forward prize for his new book Human Chain is Seamus Heaney, a great friend of StAnza who delighted audiences at his sell-out events with us in March.
Dennis O'Driscoll in conversation with Seamus Heaney at StAnza 2010
And our heartfelt congratulations to Andrew Philip, whose book, The Ambulance Box, has been shortlisted for the new Seamus Heaney Centre Prize for Poetry. Andrew took part last November in ‘Distant Voices’, our first ever digital festival. Click here for the full prize shortlists. And here to catch up on Distant Voices. Check our blogs, Facebook and Twitter for news of digital events to come.
Andrew Philip reads at Distant Voices, 14 November 2009
The latest HappenStance Press publication is Gill Andrews’ The Thief, which was launched in St Andrews last Monday. Gill, who is finishing a Creative Writing MLitt at St Andrews, took part in this year’s Inklight reading at StAnza and in one of our showcases at The Open and we’re pleased to note the arrival of her first chapbook collection.
StAnza's hub venue, The Byre Theatre, St Andrews
For those of you who haven’t come across us before, StAnza: Scotland’s International Poetry Festival takes place every March in the historic town of St Andrews, Fife.
StAnza is a celebration of live poetry in all its forms and is as renowned for its warm welcome and intimate atmosphere as for the world class poets it attracts. Few festivals can match its unique mix of over 80 events, many involving music, visual art, comedy and performance. For more background info about StAnza, look at our About section, and to sample the highlights of StAnza 2010, visit our website’s 2010 Afterword page which features photos, reviews, and podcasts.
Our regular blogs will keep you up to date with StAnza’s activities outside the main festival – we have some fantastic events lined for later this year – and we’ll let you know what’s being planned for 2011. We’ll also pass on the latest news from the poetry world and about the poets, writers and musicians who are associated with the festival. Or if you prefer, you can follow us on Facebook where we have a page and a group, or on Twitter.
StAnza takes to the fairways
Poetry and golf proved to make a winning combination during the British Open Championship which was held in St Andrews last week, attracting over 200,000 golf fans. With the eyes of the sporting world focused on Fife, we were delighted to be asked to stage showcase performances in the Open’s Tented Village. The line-up featured some of the poets who appeared at our festival, supported by StAnza regulars. We opened with StAnza 2010′s poet in residence, Kei Miller, whose much heralded new collection, A Light Song of Light, is now out from Carcanet.
Following Kei, we also had Kevin Cadwallander, Angela McSeveney, Anna Crowe and Eddie Gibbons. Delivering poetry at The Open was rather a surreal experience for us, but an enjoyable one – we certainly engaged with a very different audience. I don’t know if anyone managed a hole in one, but no-one got hit by a golf ball.
A Cabaret lunchtime event at StAnza 2010 with Angela McSeveney
StAnza has had encounters with golf before. When Sharon Olds came to StAnza in 2004, she read a side-splitting poem about golfers, inspired by watching them play from her hotel window during her stay here. In 2003, we arranged a six month residency for Roddy Lumsden at the St Andrews Bay Golf Resort and Spa. More recently, Andrew Greig read his lovely golf poem, ‘A Long Shot’, at our 100 Poets Gathering, an event arranged to celebrate our 10th anniversary in 2007. Long may this unique relationship between poetry and golf continue!
Out-going StAnza Director Brian Johnstone and new Festival Director Eleanor Livingstone
Photo: Al Buntin
Brian is a co-founder of StAnza, which started life in 1998 as a fairly small gathering of poets and poetry lovers in the Fife town of St Andrews. During his time as Festival Director, he has overseen StAnza’s astonishing growth both in audience numbers and in reputation. He leaves the festival a highlight of the busy arts calendar in Scotland and the UK which regularly draws audiences from the rest of Europe and America. Last year, he saw StAnza shortlisted for a Scottish Thistle Award, in recognition of its impact during Homecoming Year.
In previous years he has brought a range of major American poets to the festival, commissioned art works from leading Scottish artists, featured both past and present Poet Laureates, and has brought to StAnza poets from over 40 countries. The last five years have seen sustained increases in attendances – 11,000 at this year’s festival – and the festival has become a byword for excellence and hospitality.
Brian Johnstone says: ‘While I’m looking forward to having more time to pursue my own creative interests, I will also enjoy seeing how StAnza develops and grows as I’m sure it will under its new Festival Director. I’m delighted to be passing it on to such a dedicated successor – it’s going to be great – just you wait and see!’
StAnza’s new Festival Director, Eleanor Livingstone has been involved with StAnza for seven years and has been Artistic Director since 2005. Among her recent achievements has been the creation of Distant Voices: StAnza’s Digital Poetry Festival, which webcast live events to over 60 countries. She is already planning the 2011 festival and will take over the other responsibilities from June.
Of her new role, Eleanor says: ‘Over the last five years, working with Brian and our wonderful team has been a rewarding experience and I’m looking forward with enthusiasm to the challenge of leading StAnza into the future. With so much great poetry available, so many exciting possibilities for future festivals and new types of poetry encounters and engagements, I’m sure StAnza can continue to expand and develop with our focus firmly on creativity and excellence.’
‘It’s been a privilege to develop such a major event and I am happy to hand over a festival of which we can all be justly proud,’ added Brian Johnstone. ‘Without the immense commitment and support of all our members and volunteers, StAnza could simply not have functioned. And without their sharing my vision for StAnza I would simply not have been able to achieve what I – in truth we – have achieved in making StAnza all that it is today.’