Hamish Whyte reading at StAnza 2010
So one competition 'declared' but more to come. There are a few weeks left to submit entries to the 2011 Edwin Morgan Poetry Competition, deadline 10th June. And in an innovation this year, the winners and winning poems will be announced and published on the competition website in late July, in advance of the August prize-giving at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Prize positions will not be revealed until the award event but the public will have the chance to make their own guesses as to which is the winning poem.
StAnza 2011 Bookstall
The StAnza bookstall may have been folded away, but it's still book season. The first stage of judging in the Scottish Mortgage Trust Book Awards have two favourite Scottish poets as category winners, Stewart Conn for the poetry prize for his collection The Breakfast Room and Jackie Kay who wins the non-fiction prize for Red Dust Road. Both of them have won £5,000 and now go head–to–head with the winners of the fiction and first book prizes to compete for the Scottish Book of the Year honour – and a further £25,000 of prize money. The twist this year is that the public get to vote. Just go to Scottish Book Awards to register your vote. At the moment there could be a 50% chance a poet is going to emerge as winner, so these seem to be good starting odds.
Emily Ballou reading at StAnza 2011
They’ll all be taking part in various events in Scotland this week, including The Golden Hour on Wednesday, 8.00pm at The Forest Café, and a poetry reading at the Scottish Poetry Library on Friday at 6.30pm.
August Kleinzahler in St Andrews, May 2011
His visit was part of a tour of the UK and Ireland to mark the paperback publication of Sleeping it off in Rapid City: New and Selected Poems, (Faber & Faber), an award-winning retrospective of four major collections and recent work.
Kleinzahler has a reputation for being a poetic pugilist with an ability to shock. His work is described as a ‘modernist swirl of sex, surrealism, urban life and melancholy, with a jazzy backbeat.’ But there is also that deep lyricism, most evident in poems about the New Jersey of his childhood. This was evoked in ‘Closing Down on the Palisades’, prompted by the sale of his family home and in ‘Portrait of my Mother in January’, a delicate observation of aging.
In conversation with the Scottish poet Alexander Hutchison, Kleinzahler reminded the audience of his own attitude to poetry as something ‘thrilling and upsetting, not at all comfortable and predictable.’ He recalled his mentors Thom Gunn and Basil Bunting, whose method was simply to read poetry to his students and play them Renaissance and Baroque music. And he recalled the effect of hearing Gregory Corso’s poetry for the first time, ‘full of vitality, exciting’. It was the effect of Beat poetry which sent the student on the road, and his restlessness, living on both sides of the American continent and crossing the Atlantic frequently, lends itself to themes of displacement and dislocation that reverberate through his writing.
Hutchison asked the poet to which of his poems he felt would last – his Desert Island list, in effect. After some thought, he named two of his recent New Jersey poems, plus ‘The Strange Hours Travellers Keep’ and ‘Anniversary’ - the hawk poem. But there were many contenders in the second half of the evening: the Baudelaire-dark ‘Retard Spoilage’, ‘Christmas in Chinatown’ and the mesmerising poem about jazz giant Thelonius Monk, with which he finished. Kleinzahler’s sharp wit and rebellious streak combines to create poetry of serious intent. It made for a sublime reading.
The event was held in association with the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts and Faber & Faber.
The Studio Theatre
While the festival was in full swing back in March, Colin Fraser, StAnza's social media officer and his team were out and about, recording as much as they could of the live events. To give a sense of that unique atmosphere, they've created a series of audioboos: single poems by some of the poets who came to the festival, among those you can catch on the wing here are Claire Askew, Billy Letford, Gawain Douglas, Natasha Trethewey and Kevin Young.
Listen and enjoy:
Next Friday sees the long awaited arrival of the US poet August Kleinzahler in St Andrews for an evening of poetry and conversation. It’s a chance not to be missed.
The reading will take place at 7pm on 13 May at All Saint’s Hall, St Andrews. As well as reading, Kleinzahler will also be in conversation with Scottish poet Alexander Hutchison, talking about his writing and his influences. There’s still time to order tickets in advance at the Byre Theatre, 01334 475000; email firstname.lastname@example.org or online at www.byretheatre.com.
This is a rare chance to see a poet famous for his jazzy inventive style. Among his many accolades (such as the Griffin Prize), he is also the Poet Laureate of his home town, Fort Lee in New Jersey and his early life in this tough neighbourhood is a constant theme in his work. He studied his craft under poets Thom Gunn and Basil Bunting. His most recent volume of poetry is Sleeping It Off In Rapid City: Poems New & Selected (Faber), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, and has just been published in the UK in paperback.