Timepiece: how some of StAnza’s poets are inspired by history

Friday 4 March 2011

Natasha Tretheway (image © Matt Valentine)

StAnza’s theme, Timepiece, offers poets the chance to think about relationships to the past. As Festival Director Eleanor Livingstone puts it, ‘the history of nations and communities, as well as with individual histories and significant moments in poetry’s timeline.’

Significant moments are, in many ways, what poems are about and these moments can be personal and intimate, or of national and international importance. The line-up at StAnza reflects these preoccupations in subtle ways, combining  the Scottish perspective with an international outlook. Thus Scottish poet Tom Pow’s Dying Villages project explores the decline of communities of central and Eastern Europe and Rab Wilson’s new documentary film Finding the Seam returns us closer to home with the story of Fife coal-mining.

Also engaging with historical events are two poets from the USA. Natasha  Trethewey’s work explores her own personal history and the wider implications of living in the American South as in her poems ‘Myth’ ‘Providence’ and ‘Miscegenation’ which she reads here

Kevin Young who, like Trethewey, teaches at Emory University, Georgia  is inspired by African American music and the history of Black America, filtered through richly evoked family reminiscences, as in the poems, ‘Aunties’ and ‘Flash Flood Blues’ which he reads here

Returning to Europe, Dresden-born Durs

Grünbein was a witness to the changes brought about by German unification and the demise of the GDR – a place, he has said, where ‘the best refuge was a closed mouth’ – has informed his work. One of Germany’s most important poets, his poetry has recently been translated into English by Michael Hofmann in Ashes for Breakfast (2006), excerpts from which they both read here

Political, personal, comical, tragic or satirical, dwelling on significant moments or charting the flow of events, these are just some of  poets who will bring rich and rewarding experiences to audiences at StAnza from 16th March. Explore the programme and participants at www.stanzapoetry.org