Clare Mulley was our Poet in Residence at this StAnza just passed. Having studied literature at St Andrews and been a volunteer at previous StAnza festivals, Clare went on to be shortlisted for Young Poet Laureate for London. We were delighted to have her back again in a different hat! She's living proof that there really is no escape from the StAnza sphere. Here's Clare's round-up of the StAnza experience from a poet's point of view:
The week after StAnza finds me in my favourite café, as usual taking far too long over one pot of tea whilst trying to decide between two words of an ‘Unfinished Business’ poem. Standard. Although to be honest, that’s not all I’m thinking about. My mind is currently replaying the frantic, packed, and absolutely phenomenal week before – one which saw me doing everything from writing riddles with children to drinking with Dylan Thomas.
I’m still recovering (poets party hard… hey, who knew?) but the strangest thing was coming to terms with a basic fact. Last week was the first time I’ve visited St Andrews, not just as an alumnus, but as a poet. Rather, as someone who feels they can say ‘I am a poet’ rather than ‘I write poems.’
It’s odd being a poet - no matter how much you ‘grow up’, or think that you’re getting better at writing, you’re still afraid that someone somewhere might have made a mistake in allowing you to get this far. So-and-so loved your poem? Well, how can they judge?
The battle between the urge to spout words and the urge to be modest is the thing which makes so many poets slightly cagey. No wonder festivals can be hotbeds of tension.
Thank God, then, for StAnza, which gave me, and so many others, a lucky break. The tiny size of the town compared with the massive scale of the event is what makes it so unique, and so relaxing. You can’t help but meet people, be inspired. Not only an event for artists, but a family business – one where aspiring youngsters are encouraged to mix with seasoned artists, because the organisers know this is the best way to make more artists.
Once, I was an awkward student reciting snippets to older poets, all of whom could have smiled politely and dismissed me. Instead, they beamed and chatted, clearly delighted that someone shared their passion.
Now, thanks to their encouragement, I’m still growing, still hopeful. Unfinished Business, indeed!