Poetry, out of line and by design: Stephanie Green

Sunday 10 March 2013

As I entered the Town Hall a voice reciting poems seemed to come from nowhere – I looked around but saw no one – then traced it to overhead speakers.  This is just one of the weird and wonderful incarnations of poetry outwith the page that one encounters round StAnza this year, as part of one of the festival themes, Designs on Poetry.  The Breakfast event, 'Out of Line' was also  appropriately surrounded by digital poetic installations – slides of the Badilisha  Poetry Xchange  projected on the ceiling above us, and on the walls was Jon Stale Ritland's 'Body Searches'  slides of biological cells and visual poems inspired by the 'grammar' of DNA.  The Q & A at the end of the session was open to Twitter...phew and that's only the half of it.  There was also the visual minuter, Ariadne Radi Cor, creating an artist's account of proceedings .

Our panel of George Szirtes, Ken Babstock, Chris Emery (Salt Publishing) and academic Andrew Roberts (replacing Greg Thomas who had to cancel) discussed traditional form v concrete poetry, and ranged through the new poetics and the effect of the internet, creative writing at the universities, self-publishing, the multiplicity and variety of places where poetry appears but issues of diminishing sales, fragmentation of audience, new elites and the rise of artists' books.

Metaphors to describe the design of poetic structure were banded about such as  chiselling, architecture, sculpturing, embroidery, knitting and sewing, but after the event I went along to an exhibition where this was literally realized.

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Farlin  involved pairs of poets and craftmakers from Shetland and Fife. Last week at Inspace in Edinburgh, I heard and saw Jen Hadfield read via Skype from Shetland, whilst Kathleen Jamie performed in the flesh in Edinburgh and was relayed to Shetland, so I am already converted to this amazing live/virtual phenomena (actually, since sons have lost the art of pen and ink, this is how my husband and I communicated with our son whilst he was at uni).  So I was interested to learn that the Farlin  poets and craftmakers had collaborated via Skype as well as snail mail.

From exquisite jewellery of silver leaves  to textile embroidered bags, the craft was varied and impressive. The poets, too. My favourites were the sinister bird-creature made out of silver wire by Shetland artist Helen Robertson paired with Fife poet, Paula Jennings'  'Seabird, What has Death Left in your Belly?':  and the particular line 'Death steals life but leaves a changeling' which evoked the bird so well.  Another favourite was the pairing of the concrete poem of a tree by Bruce Eunson, Shetland poet and Fife artist, and Molly Ginnelly's  installation of tree fragments (twigs, stick etc).

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Tipyn Bach of Welsh

Lesson Two:

Dai iawn, diolch

pron Die yown dee-olch (ch as in Scots loch)- Very well, thank you.

Which is what Gillian or one of the other Welsh poets might have answered yesterday to your Shw mae

Photos by Stephanie Green

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