Poems from Stanza 2006
This page, like the Festival itself, is a celebration of poetry. We are delighted to present here some of the poems
written at, or about, StAnza. Your comments, as always, are welcome. Please contact the Webmaster.
In the first tranche, Valerie Gillies, Edinburgh Makar and StAnza's 2006 Poet-in-Residence, is joined
by Eleanor Livingstone, Artistic Director, Colin Will and Anne Connolly.
Monk’s Well, St Andrews
On a spot looking out over the surf
grows a grassy knoll with a round roof,
this is the wellhouse a monk built,
whaleback of slabs and a flag lintel.
Stone steps are leading spiralling down
where water still trickles within the mound
oozing out to a widening ripple
promising healing and renewal
till its mouth is choked by a gag of litter:
irnbru cans, plastic bottles, fag-end fritters.
Who comes here to the holy well?
Three students arrive for a smoke, they tell
how they thought it was just another tomb
used by truants as a smoking room.
Thank you for letting us know what it is.
All three in long black overcoats, St Cainnech’s
new community founded beside the well.
It drips once or twice in its simple cell
It needs help, to be cleaned out and rinsed.
Between virid walls that stink of smoke
here is the spoilheap of our hopes:
somehow fresh water will flow to us yet,
two drops at a time, res-pect, res-pect.
Copyright © Valerie Gillies 2006
|As a postscript to this poem, Valerie writes: Good news from St Andrews, where Fife Council plus schoolchildren have cleared out the well and arranged for a sign to be put up to inform people of what it is. The power of poetry!
A St. Andrews Cross
of crocuses standing proud
of the year's first snow.
Copyright © Eleanor Livingstone 2006
Spring’s too wound up.
A sequence of chill easterlies
has drafted in from the continent -
where they were northerlies -
from a piled Arctic high,
a landmass of fridge air.
And the wind still whirrs,
spits rain in the eyes,
catches breath in the throat,
chafes ears, stiffens knuckles.
A spade is powerless
to cut the hard earth.
Each bang of the boot
transmits a jar
from arch to whipsting
in the heart of the calf muscle.
Best pick mattock
or demolition bar
to crack the crust.
Seeds, dry in packets,
will come to little harm.
Sadder are the potatoes
sacked in the cool dark,
putting out white wormy shoots,
thirsty root hairs that must soon
touch warm soil, moisture.
They triggered early, switched
by a gene’s prediction of light-time.
No leeway for wintergrip,
this stiff white counterpane
on the barren beds of March.
Copyright © Colin Will 2006
(Hugh Lupton, Storyteller and Chris Wood, musician)
The teller cried the horses one by one
as tall and spare he took the Stanza stage,
the fiddler set to haunting with his tune
and sang a slow lament that he had made.
Through the hypnotic mantra of his voice
the story conjured roan, piebald, grey
whose nostrils flared to snort the morning frost
and we could share the scent of new-turned hay
that filled the early life of Jenny Wing.
She charged those horses with her girlhood's dream
so soon destroyed as life in service gnawed
the hope out of her soul or so it seemed
until he told of how she rode with joy
through the familiar meadow of her death.
Her century ended and our silence spoke.
In All Saints Hall we held our breath.
Copyright © Anne Connolly March 2006