Stephanie Green: what I am looking forward to at StAnza.

Wednesday 14 March 2012

As StAnza kicks off this evening with an evening of poetry and jazz, our guest blogger, poet Stephanie Green previews some events she is particularly keen to see at StAnza. As she says herself, she has been coming to the festival for years and has been blogging about us on her own blog. So it was about time, we reckoned that she did some posts for us. She will be posting here through the festival, exploring the theme of the image in words and pictures. Here are her tips for events featuring some of the rising stars of poetry.

What am I looking forward to? What am I not? This will be my 7th visit to StAnza and I still get a buzz from the sharp, clear light of St Andrews, glorying in the crow-stepped architecture of the university and old town, and imbibing the smell of the sea and diesel in the harbour and the sounds of sea-gulls along with the poetry. Also hearing Big Names I've not heard before, and meeting up with poet friends I know from all over Scotland and other poet friends I've made at workshops all over Britain or even those I've met at StAnza itself. A gathering of poet clans.

The social side of StAnza is one of its best aspects. Having a central meeting place: the Byre, with bar and cosy sofas, it's easy to bump into the Big Names and chat informally -if that's what you'd like to do. There are events all over town too but it's so small and the streets so narrow, that one keeps bumping into the same people. And if you're a solitary soul, or just a need a break to recover from too much poetry (Heaven forfend) then there are the wide skies and lonely sands of the West Sands to escape to...but enough of escaping, before even arriving.

Gill Andrews is a rising star in the Scottish poetry world - shortlisted for the Picador publishing prize last year and the Edwin Morgan prize, she is an alumna of St Andrew's university too - tutored by Don Paterson and Kathleen Jamie. As she has a background in the law, you can expect dramatic poems of incisive brilliance, a razor-sharp logic with a visceral punch, so don't miss her reading at all costs on Sunday 18th March, 11.30am with Simon Barraclough who comes trailing clouds of glory from England.Oh, yes, I must declare partiality here. Gill is friend of mine but don't let that prejudice you.

Another rising star, and also friend, is Jane McKie (Janie to friends) who pipped Gill in the Edwin Morgan prize by winning it with her exquisite poem 'The Leper Window, St. Mary the Virgin). St Mary's is incidentally a church in Sussex where Janie comes from - but she has been settled in Scotland for some time. Her pamphlet 'Garden of Bedsteads' (Mariscat Press) was promoted by the Poetry Book Society as their recent Pamphlet Choice. But Janie is a stalwart with two previous full collections to her name, the most recent 'When the Sun Turns Green' (Polygon, 2009).

Don't miss Jane's reading either - you'll experience an extraordinarily inventive and unusual imagination which draws its inspiration from folklore and history- the darker strands, and like a magpie, she is drawn to strange, curious things of the natural world: beetles, the archaeopteryx, ostrich eggs, deep-sea creatures, but also writes poems shot through with the anxiety and fears of being a mother of small children. She's reading with the well-known John Siddique on Friday 16th March at 2.15.

Another friend (Is there no end to them?) I must flag up is Claudia Daventry, star of Poetry Slams, winning a prize at the Irish Satirical Verse competition (the Percy French) in Strokestown, County Roscommon a few years ago. She has since licked the Ozzies in an online slam and is well known on the Scottish Slam scene. However, she is no mean literary poet too, scooping prizes at the literary Heavyweight competitions, the Arvon and Bridport. See her poem 'Amsterdam' you can find on the StAnza Participants' web-page. Witty, hilarious, naughty...but also moving, with a flair for drama. And if we're lucky, she make break into song. You may end up with a stitch, from laughing, or weeping into your sandwich, while you enjoy her 'Poetry Cafe' event at the Byre Theatre on Friday 16th March, 1pm.

If you want a poetry workshop, then I highly recommend the witty, laid-back barge poet (she lives on one) Jo Bell, whose workshop will be on using the negative for positive effects. I had the never-forgotten delight of attending this workshop during the Word Play Festival in Edinburgh earlier this year. No, there will not be a dry eye in the house, and never will you enjoy a workshop more, nor deny the not inconsiderable reams of poem notes you will emerge with. I'll not flag up the headline poets - because of course you're probably going to hear them anyway.But check out Tusiata Avia from Samoa, Alan Buckley (past winner of the Wigtown prize), Pippa Little (winner of the Norman MacCaig prize, 2011)

To start off, I am going along to hear Don Paterson, not as poet this time but as jazz guitarist with the Dave Batchelor Quintet celebrating Larkin's love of jazz on the opening night, 8pm, 14th March.

Stephanie Green

Our thanks to Stephanie, who blogs at

Keep on reading!

We'll be blogging about the launch and the festival regularly over the next few days. watch this space!