One of the most mysterious and exciting occurrences in the literary world last year was the appearance of a series of exquisite paper sculptures around the city of Edinburgh. The first appeared last March in the Scottish Poetry Library: a tiny, beautifully made tree growing out of an old book. It embodied the library’s motto: ‘By leaves we live’ and with it was a broken eggshell lined with words from a poem by Edwin Morgan. The sculpture, anonymously given, seemed to be a delightful one-off. But more paper masterpieces appeared throughout the year mainly in other libraries, literature centres and at the Edinburgh Book Festival. The last was discovered in the Scottish Poetry Library before Christmas: inspired by Norman McCaig’s poem ‘Gifts’, it recreated in paper the ‘impossible gifts’ of a wren’s wing cap and bees’ fur gloves. The identity of the sculptor remains unknown, and the charming notes which she left with each sculpture gave no clues.
I do not offer you impossible things
A year on from that first discovery, the SPL have very kindly lent StAnza their two sculptures to go on show at the Byre Theatre during the festival. Come and see for yourselves what the SPL have called ‘the purest of gifts, unrequested and anonymous’. This will be the first time any of the sculptures have been displayed outside Edinburgh.
The original Pedlar
That was the question on everyone’s lips at StAnza’s Dundee Preview last week which took place at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design.
Duncan of Jordanstone’s Tracy MacKenna, who with Edwin Janssen is creating the Pedlar project, introduced the concept to an eager audience. The Pedlar is a character inspired by the eighteenth century street seller of ballads and poems. He will be out and about on the streets of St Andrews during StAnza 2012 distributing posters that combine poetry with visual images. Roaming the town, the Pedlar will create encounters with StAnza’s audience and participants, shopkeepers and St Andrews residents, by calling and reading out poems. The Pedlar’s activities will be accessible online, updated daily in image and text.
Festival director Eleanor Livingstone outlined the festival’s programmes and themes, and Dundee based Andy Jackson led readings from his new anthology Split Screen, poems inspired by cult TV and film programmes, which will be launched at the festival. If your early youth was misspent in front of the goggle box or in the local cinema, this is the book for you.
StAnza is previewing its programme in Dundee on Thursday, so if you are in the area, head along to Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design for some poetry, music and a taste of the entertaining festival to come. Director Eleanor Livingstone will introduce the festival's themes, Poetry by Degrees and the Image. Dundee based poet Andy Jackson will lead some of the poets who have contributed to his new anthology Split Screen, which celebrates cult TV and films of the 60s and 70s: we are talking the weird and the wonderful, from The Avengers to The Clangers, from Patrick Stewart in Star Trek mode to cinema siren Jayne Mansfield.
The fun happens from 6-7pm at the Lower Foyer Gallery, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, 13 Perth Road, Dundee, DD1 4HT. The building is at the west end of the university campus and opposite the top of the Roseangle.
The college has been working in collaboration with StAnza on projects related to visual art, including the Poetry Pedlar, a character based on the traditional pedlar of ballad sheets and verses, who will be roaming the streets of St Andrews during the festival in March. One of the many surprises in store. Not long now!
Museum of the University of St Andrews
We've got together this year with MUSA, the Museum of the University of St Andrews to offer poets the chance to write about some of the special objects on display. MUSA Curator Amy Dale explains:
Surprisingly, this year will be the first time we work in partnership with StAnza to help celebrate the upcoming poetry festival. As part of Scotland’s International Poetry Festival we are inviting people to contribute alternative labels for objects on display in MUSA. We have picked five items from the collection, which we hope will inspire you to write a short poem. Go to our Blog at http://museumoftheuniversityofstandrews.wordpress.com/ to view the items. The best entries will be made into labels and displayed next to the object. We haven’t given much background information about the items as we want your imagination to run wild.
- submit poems by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Poems should be a maximum of six lines so they fit in the display cases.
- Please write in your email which object you were inspired by
We are really pleased to be part of such an exciting festival and look forward to reading your creative entries. If anyone would like further information about any of the objects to inform their writing please contact me on the email address above.
Amy Dale, MUSA Collections Curator
Last week saw the launch of the StAnza brochure and launch was an appropriate word, when you consider the choice of cover. The brochure is now online and you can flick through it virtually here
This beautiful and intriguing image of a boat (chosen to celebrate the theme of The Image) is from a painting by Derek Robertson and is a visual response to lines by Skye poet Rody Gorman. Is it a boat or an island or both? Robertson described his collaboration with Gorman thus: ‘Rody and I met in Skye several years ago and became friends’, says Derek. ‘Rody suggested that we work together on a project, and I produced paintings in response to his poems, and these were exhibited in Skye last year. Subsequently, I have done some paintings developing a few of these poems further, and a small collection of watercolours responding to Rody's new collection of poems "Beartan Briste". The Long-lines piece used for the brochure was a response to Rody's poem of the same name which refers to places in Skye where Rody lives and where I visit. The pieces of landscape refer to fishing nets, boats, drying poles and other aspects of the landscape in that corner of the island.'
The exhibition ‘Ruaridh agus Ruaridh Eile’ will be on display at Fife Contemporary Arts & Crafts, in the Town Hall in St Andrews during StAnza in March. Meanwhile, plan your visit to the festival with a look through the brochure.
Next week sees the launch of the StAnza brochure, which will be on display, fresh from the printers, at two events in Edinburgh. Festival Director Eleanor Livingstone will be showcasing the festival to literature professionals at the UNESCO City of Literature Salon on Tuesday 31st January.
This precedes the StAnza Preview, open to the public, which takes place at the National Library of Scotland, 1st February at 6pm. There will be samples of what to expect from Gerry Cambridge of The Dark Horse fame, who will be appearing at StAnza, and from Andy Jackson and poets contributing to his new anthology, Split Screen, which will be officially launched at the festival in March.
All this, plus music from Stretch Dawrson of the Mending Hearts Trio (below), who are bringing some Western swing to StAnza's Finale. It promises to be a delightful hour of entertainment - to secure a place at this free event, contact the NLS.