Through the window of poetry

Sunday 15 August 2010, 09:47

Don Paterson (photo credit Al Buntin)

The sun shone yesterday on the first day of the Edinburgh International Book Festival adding to the festive atmosphere in Charlotte Square. In the afternoon, the first of  the Festival's poetry readings was introduced by guest selector, Don Paterson, who read at StAnza back in March.

First on the podium was John Stammers, whose literary reputation as a 'dandy and a metaphysical' makes him unique among contemporary poetic voices. But he pulled few punches with poems from his new, soul-scouring collection Interior Night. Images of love among musical instruments in  'Ondine' gave way to disturbing and yet darkly humorous narratives about drug addiction and an ode to a poster of  the singer, Alison Goldfrapp, seen from a London Underground platform. Strong, satirical stuff.

Sinead Morrissey’s gentle delivery counterpointed the powerful content of her poems, taken from her collection Through the Square Window. Her work ranged through a found poem based on the contents page of  a script of the York Mystery Plays to childhood memories of eating jugged hare, and the joys and fears of being a mother. Two of the most provocative images came from the title poem:  one is a dream of the dead arriving to wash the windows of a mother’s house. The other comes from  an experience of temporary paralysis on waking:  ‘flat on my back with a cork/ in my mouth, bottle-stoppered, in fact,/like a herbalist’s cure for dropsy.’  Morrissey is adept at exploring the mysteries at the heart of everyday experiences.

For the rest of the festival poetry programme, including some StAnza poets, click here

Categories: News

Poetry at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Friday 13 August 2010, 07:58

Get your poetry fix at the EIBF this month. New director Nick Barley asked one of Scotland’s premier poets Don Paterson and the Scottish Poetry Library to advise on selections for the Poetry Programme and the line-up is stunning.

Four of the six poets shortlisted for this year’s Forward Prize are appearing: Seamus Heaney’s event is sold out but tickets for Jo Shapcott, Robin Robertson and Sinead Morrissey were still available a few days ago.

Kei Miller at StAnza 2010

Also on the roster are Simon Armitage, Paul Muldoon John Glenday, Carol Ann Duffy (reading from her forthcoming collection, The Bees), Jackie Kay, John Stammers, Ron Butlin, StAnza’s own former Director, Brian Johnstone, Kathleen Jamie (in conversation with Jonathan Bate), Douglas Dunn and Mandy Haggith (on Norman McCaig). Kei Miller, our Poet in Residence last March, is also taking part. Click here for full programme and booking details.

And check out the festival’s innovative – and free –  Unbound evenings at the Highland Park Spiegeltent, which will feature a poetry night on Thursday 19 August. Expect the unexpected…

Categories: News

Fife in festival mood again

Sunday 8 August 2010, 18:35


If Fife is the festival kingdom, then this week it's the turn of Pittenweem Arts Festival which opened on Friday and runs until Sunday 15th August. Often referred to as Scotland's St Ives, with a wheen of resident artists and plenty of galleries, as well as a working harbour, Pittenweem is always worth a visit, especially during the annual festival. Almost 100 exhibitions are on offer, many squeezed into - or stretched out in - sheds, garages, quaint old converted fishermen's cottages, net lofts and outdoors in gardens and on the harbour. It was sunny enough today but there was a breeze off the Forth to keep things fresh, despite the crowds, and even if you're not likely to be purchasing the art, it's fun going in and out and around all the houses.

House converted for the duration into a gallery.

As well as the exhibitions, they have a programme of events, including on Thursday at 7.30pm, a Poetry Cafe night featuring Judith Taylor who took part at StAnza last year, and other poets from the North East of Scotland. Admission is £8.00 and tickets are available from the festival box office in Pittenweem. And on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 2.00pm, there's a Storytelling Cycle performed by StAnza's John J. Taylor, in association with Theatre Odyssey, in the atmospheric St Fillan's Cave.

Categories: News

New Writing Scotland issue 28 launched

Friday 6 August 2010, 19:31

Scottish poetry is thriving as never before, according to Alan Bissett, co-editor, with Carl MacDougall, of the 28th issue of New Writing Scotland. ‘The higher quality of the poetry among the entries was very noticeable,’ says Bissett, a phenomenon he thinks may be partly an artistic response to tougher economic times. Stone Going Home Again, which was given a pre-festival launch this week at Edinburgh’s Blackwells bookshop, includes poems and fiction that reflects the vitality and linguistic diversity of Scotland.

Among the poetic gems are Graham Fulton’s bus monologue, Dorothy Alexander’s Borders ‘micro-narratives’, Ryan van Winkle’s meditation on a line by Kenny Richey, and poems by Gerda Stevenson, Patricia Ace, Tracey S. Rosenberg, and StAnza’s Jim Carruth and Colin Fraser. There is still time to submit for 2011: the closing date is 30 September. For details, click here.

Categories: News

Forging ahead with poetry ...

Wednesday 4 August 2010, 20:06


Scotland’s festival season is a reminder that culture is something to be celebrated and art forms such as poetry and literature are far from being confined to the page.

Latest purveyor of on-trend live literature happenings on the Edinburgh and Glasgow scene is Forge of the Wordsmiths, a new writing social club that mixes story, poetry, music, visuals and performance. Their Garden Party at Sandeman House, Edinburgh, last month, featured some wild and witty poetry and prose Manifestations (I liked Booki$m, which wants to make books the new currency and solve the credit crunch), plus superbly sharp, short fiction from Gavin Inglis and an array of musical maestros. 

The next meeting will be at The Flying Duck, Glasgow, 29th August and the call is out for Three Minute Heroes to appear in poetry and fiction slots, and – for longer performances – new multimedia collaborations. Click here for details.

Categories: News

StAnza poets at The Big Tent

Friday 30 July 2010, 16:07

There was plenty of poetry on offer at The Big Tent festival which took place at Falkland in Fife last weekend. StAnza’s own Brian Johnstone and Anna Crowe were both giving readings with a line-up of other poets, including Mandy Haggith, who took part in the StAnza slam this year, and Gerry Loose, whose exhibition of plant labels, A rose is a rose is a ... at the Preservation Trust Museum and around St Andrews, continued on after the festival into June.

The Foyle Young Poets competition

Tomorrow is the closing date for the Foyle competition  for young poets but if you know any talented young poets aged 11 to 17, they still have time to enter online. The competition is open to young poets from around the world, and it would be great to see some from Scotland in this year's top 15.

Categories: News
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