Programme for StAnza 2016 revealed!

Monday 30 November 2015

If, like us, you've been counting down the days: our new programme is finally here! StAnza 2016 will be our 19th annual festival and we do hope you’ll join us in March.  We have a stunning line-up of more than 60 poets from around the world, including Jane Yolen and James Arthur from the USA, Sarah Holland-Batt from Australia, Aase Berg from Sweden, the UK’s own Lemn Sissay and a trio of German language poets, including Nora Gomringer, all making their first appearance at StAnza. Making a very welcome return are Jo Shapcott, Thomas Lynch, Sean O’Brien, Don Paterson, Pascale Petit, Jo Bell, John Burnside, Tracey Herd, Meg Bateman and Matthew Sweeney. And we’re delighted to have two very recent prize winners taking part; Andrew McMillan has this month won both the Guardian First Book Award and the Aldeburgh Fenton Best First Collection prize and he’ll be reading with Fiona Benson, joint winner of this year’s Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize.

For Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design our first theme for 2016 will be City Lines. We’ll be listening out for urban verse and considering how poetry engages with city life and connects cities – the small cathedral city of St Andrews connecting with poets and poetry in cities around the world. We have designed a festival programme which celebrates architecture and explores how poetry can engage with our built environment. Both in discussions and creatively, we shall ask how poetry can help people build and sustain personal and public creative spaces, an idea at the heart of Lucy Jones' exhibition Building with Words in which our artist in residence from 2015 has wonderfully captured the architecture of St Andrews in a collage of text and images.

Our second theme, Body of Poetry, will embrace the many ways in which poetry celebrates and explores human and other bodies, both literally and metaphorically, looking at their needs and appetites, their beauties and imperfections. Thomas Lynch, poet, essayist and funeral director, will deliver this year’slecture on the Body of Poetry theme, as well as a workshop on Earthly Bodies. And in an innovation for 2016, we shall also have our first dedicated translated language focus with a strand of events showcasing German poetry, including KOOKbooks as featured publisher at the Poetry Market. Should any of these strands particularly take your fancy, our new website will allow you to search for events which connect with a particular programme theme or focus.

This year’s spoken word strand at the festival includes a range of the best of today’s performers, from Lemn Sissay and Nora Gomringer, who’ll both be performing at our evening Centre Stage events, to our lunchtime Poetry Café sessions which include this year’s BBC Slam champion Scott Tyrrell, a duo of Loud Poets from Edinburgh, Jemima Foxtrot’s acclaimed four-star show Melody (‘A glittering show, a gem in every sense, a shining thing’ The Stage) and Kirsten Luckins, one of a crowd of poets from the north-east of England appearing this year. We’ll also have the Scottish premiere of Beginning to See the Light, newer voices from the Young London Laureate scheme and the Scottish Book Trust’s New Writer Awards, and a celebration of 21 years of The Dark Horse. We’re also welcoming as a guest to the festival the winner of the Caracas-based World Without Censorship’s current poetry competition, Letras de Libertad. Elsewhere on the programme are participants from Canada and Georgia. 

StAnza is also about taking part, and Sean O’Brien will take this year’s Masterclass as part of our series of ‘take part’ events for 2016. John Burnside will lead an all-day workshop on Tuesday 1st March in the splendid setting of Kingsbarns Distillery and there are more workshops from the inimitable Jo Bell, Matthew Sweeney and Harry Man, who will be Poet in Residence. We’ll also have our usual open mics and the annual StAnza Slam; we're inviting submissions for a couple of other poetry projects (more about those soon); and there are also a couple of open places in The StAnza Camarade led by S.J. Fowler.

Also in residence at the festival will be Rebecca Sharp as Poet-Perfumer and Clive Birnie as Hashtag# Poet with StAnza’s first installation for Instagram. The visual art programme also includes an exhibition of the Potter, Painter and Poet collaboration, Poetrytreat, a range of installations and from Berlin, an exhibition which asks: What’s the point of poetry? 

If you’re looking for music, the opening night show is Sea Threads/SeaTreeds, a Shetlandic sea chronicle performed by acclaimed jazz band Tommy Smith’s Karma and poet Christine De Luca. We also have To the Lighthouse, a concert of musical responses to Virginia Woolf’s poetic novel, as well as jazz, clarsach, folk and Turning the Elements, another new music and poetry collaboration for soprano and clarinet. 

Wake up and smell the poetry with our breakfast panel events. Let coffee, pastries and a provocative panel discussion on this year’s festival themes ease you in to the festival day (join the live webcasts if you can’t be there in person) and late night poetry and music events will keep things lively until midnight. The festival hub at the Byre Theatre is the perfect place to catch up with old friends and make new ones, or to relax with a book and coffee. With its plethora of exhibitions, installations, films and talks about poets and poetry past and present –and the chance to enjoy the wonderful town of St Andrews, rich with beaches and walks, ruins and shops – StAnza 2016 offers a multi-layered festival experience with something for everyone. We look forward to seeing you there. Tickets go on sale in early January so plenty of time to plan your festival diary. 

You can find full details here on our new website and the StAnza Blog is also here from now on, at And if you’re looking for the Poetry Map, it’s at

We'll be adding a few more events before March but this is the core programme. Do let us know what you think about it, and about our new website, and we look forward to seeing you in St Andrews in March.