DURA @StAnza21: Creating and connecting through art

Tuesday 9 March 2021

Festivals through zoom... who would have thought we’d be here a year ago? Nevertheless, we persevere, and this year's StAnza is proving to be a breath of fresh air for our rather stale state of living in lockdown. Tuesday kicked off with an Inspire Session from Joelle Taylor in which she discussed the concept of page fright: a blank wall or a window depending on your perspective. Her advice was to pick a line at random from any book, write it down on paper then continue to write, keeping pen to page for five minutes and letting whatever comes to mind flow. As a student with deadlines approaching and stress mounting, this advice is very welcome!

Image of a blurred face obscured by a wrinkled grey-blue surface, with black text rippling across it.

Astra Papachristodoulou

Next came the Meet the Artists portion of the day, hosted over zoom by Chris McCabe, Astra Papachristodoulou and Jinhao Xie. Today's focus was Instagram Poetry, a fitting form for our virtual festival. With a rich and diverse history of visual poetry, this newest medium is reaching younger audiences and attracting a new generation of poets. Astra introduced us to her innovative sculpture poetry, made from bio resin, and inspired by her interest in natural elements. Thinking back to the inspire session, it seems Instagram provides a digital blank page, more suited to showcasing this form of visual poetry than the limitations of paper.

Jinhao finds the creative freedom of Instagram similarly liberating, posting first drafts on their platform in order to share the flaws involved in the creative process. This way of sharing edits with their audience allows for a more immediate and personal connection to their fanbase than traditional publication. For both poets, Instagram allows them to reach a wider audience, but more importantly to connect with other artists. I find this idea of community particularly appealing during lockdown, as a way to share creatively online while government restrictions prevent us from meeting in person.

Later in the day we joined Will Harris for the Poets at Home session, a new feature for StAnza. Recorded on his phone and  laptop, the session gave us an inside look at the creative process behind making poetry. Despite the virtual medium, this felt very personal, and chimed with earlier discussion in the Meet the Artists section about using technology to connect and share creatively. From handwritten notes jotted down on paper, to photographs and screen shots of media found on the internet, this segment felt archival in nature. The process of creating poetry has been the main focus of today’s events, and I’ve enjoyed learning more about how each poet happens across their inspiration.

White text on black background: Centre: 'My tears / are / the litmus test / of / my gender / performance'. Bottom left: 'title:untitled'. Bottom right: 'by xie.jin.hao'. Top left and centre right there are white symbols of eyes with droplets underneath.

Jinhao Xie

My last poetry fix of the day came from the Poetry Centre Stage in the evening. Sitting with a cup of tea in the comfort of my living room, I was transported around the world while listening to Tim Liardet and Naomi Shihab Nye. Poetry spoken out loud from the poet themselves is always a magical experience, and this event was no exception. The readings felt intimate, and like the rest of the events today I came away with a sense of connection. I guess that speaks to the power of poetry, its ability to cross borders, to elevate the personal to the collective. And what better place to experience and enjoy poetry than StAnza?

 

Jessica Stevenson

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