In the first of her Festival Blogs for StAnza, poet Stephanie Green gives us us her personal preview of the StAnza line-up. She will be reporting back on her experiences over the next five days, so keep following!
First of all it will be fascinating to see what the atmosphere will be like without the Byre. The Keep Calm and Carry on spirit that Eleanor Livingstone and her team have displayed organizing new venues, the rallying around of St Andrew's, town and University have been magnificent: a sort of crisis camaraderie will prevail, I'm sure – with the Town Hall Supper Room as the new social and foodie Hub. In years to come, there will be reminiscing – 'You had to be there.' I for one, intend to be there at as much as one can humanly take. And there's a lot on. More than ever it seems.
This year not one, but two all day workshops at the Georgian Balmungo House in its beautiful setting – I hope the daffodils are out. Douglas Dunn and Sean Borodale as the tutors. And there's plenty of other poetry workshops – you could do almost one a day.
All the headliners go without saying, but having lived in Wales for 13 years, I'm a bit biased, so my favourites will be the Welsh poets who will be there en masse this year. For the faint-hearted, their poetry is in English, but you might catch a bit of Welsh sprinkled here and there, not least in the cadences of Gillian Clarke, the National Poet of Wales a total MUST paired with Scotland's Makar, Liz Lochhead. What a stupendous billing.
There's also a slew of other Cymry: Robert Minhinnick, former editor of Poetry Wales and co-founder of Friends of the Earth (Cymru), so there's bound to be some politically and environmentally charged poems, Zoë Skoulding, the present editor, an academic whose poetry is complex and multi-layered, and she'll also be talking about an overlooked but recently rediscovered Welsh poet, Lynette Roberts. I'll be checking out, young and talented, Eurig Salisbury, the Welsh Children's Laureate. Eurig and Ifor ap Glyn will be participants at the Translation workshop (so you might hear a bit more Welsh there). Deryn Rees-Jones whose highly original and deeply moving latest collection was short-listed for the T.S. Eliot prize last year will be a Must and last but not least, Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch whose extraordinarily lyrical poetry takes us in her latest volume to the Antarctic.
More bias: two of my mates will be Must See: Jean Atkin, whose poetry has been produced in evocative artist's books by Hugh Bryden of Roncadora Press. See
And Patricia Ace who launches her first collection. With a West Indian/Welsh ancestry, she is noted for her moving poems, full of warmth and humanity, often writing about her teenage daughters (and they still speak to her.)
And if you want to spice up your lunch-hour, I recommend the Edinburgh performance stars, Harry Giles, and Rachel McCrum. I've seen them both perform with high octane pizzazz– Harry at Inky Fingers, and Rachel at Rally and Broad, a literary cabaret plus other delights such as flame-throwing acrobats. I kid you not. There won't be flames at StAnza but I can promise you flair.