Top tips from top poets

Sunday 28 June 2020, 11:05

John Glenday is one of the poets who made a big impact with his poetry at this year's StAnza festival. We have asked John and several of the others for their top tips for writing a good poem and we'll be sharing their thoughts on this over the coming weeks.  We hope you'll enjoy listening to them as much as we have. So now, over to John.

Categories: News, Digital

Relearning worlds

Sunday 28 June 2020, 10:54

Join poet/tutor Polly Atkin for our StAnza Zoom summer workshop.

Photo: Kay Adkins

In this online workshop we will focus on writing the very local, and the very everyday: the things we see and touch all the time but perhaps do not notice, or notice and do not value. As the limits of many of our daily existences have shrunk during lockdown, some of us have found renewed appreciation or renewed disdain for the things that surround us, and make up our worlds. How well do you know the things and places you live amongst?

Through reading a selection of poems, and guided exercises, we will work on expanding our confined worlds by delving into them, re-imaging them in scale and scope. We will practice re-familiarising ourselves with aspects of our worlds which have become unfamiliar, and de-familiarising ourselves with aspects of our new existences that have become mundane in their constant presence.

This workshop will be led by leading poet Polly Atkin, who has recently won a Northern Writers Award. It will take place online via Zoom. Those who apply to take part will have to confirm that they have an account with Zoom. A formal invitation to the Zoom workshop will be issued shortly before the date of the workshop.

The workshop will last approximately 90 minutes and will take place on Tuesday 21 July, either at 2.30pm or 7.00pm, BST. It will be limited to a maximum of ten people signing up. Those who would like to take part are invited, in the first instance, to email and indicate whether they would prefer the afternoon or the evening slot. There will only be one workshop but we will fix it for the time slot preferred by the majority of the first ten people applying. If anyone is unable to attend the slot chosen, their place will be offered to those on the waiting list.

There will be a charge of £5.00 for taking part in this workshop. We will provide information on payment, which must be online either by Paypal or bank transfer, to those who are successful in obtaining a place.

If you would like to take part in this workshop, please email StAnza on with "Relearning worlds workshop" in the subject line.

Categories: News

Learn about a poetry and health study

Tuesday 23 June 2020, 19:20

From time to time we are happy to offer guests the opportunity to talk about poetry projects which impress us, but this may be the first poetry and health post we've hosted.  When Georgi Gill explained that she was looking for people to take part in research about the impact of writing poetry on people diagnosed with MS, we thought it would be good if she could reach more people.  So, over to Georgi.

"Both before and since I was finally diagnosed with relapse remitting multiple sclerosis in 2003, I have found it difficult to describe my illness experiences and symptoms to others. I have become fluent in MS medical terminology. My tongue no longer stumbles over the terms dysesthesia, optic neuritis or cognitive dysfunction. Yet these words don’t help me to communicate what it feels like to live in this body, with its woolly sensations of intermittent burning pains, blurred vision, dizziness and fatigue. I am not alone in this: it is acknowledged within the MS community that many of us have difficulty explaining our illness to those around us.

"As a poet, former teacher, and confirmed chatterbox, words are my stock-in-trade. It’s no surprise that I am keen to find potential ways to improve this communication shortfall. It’s also perhaps no surprise that I have chosen to explore the possibilities of poetry in dialogues about MS. There is, of course, a long history of poetry about illness, very often written by the doctors or carers of ill people. Famously William Carlos Williams, Dannie Abse and Raphael Campo have all written knowledgeably and compassionately about their patients.

"Yet I am most interested in hearing the individual voices of ill people sharing their own lived and felt experience of neurological illness, such as in Frank Ormsby’s poems about Parkinson’s disease. Since I contributed to the anthology Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (Nine Arches Press) in 2017, I have been experimenting with poetry as a way of documenting and communicating my lived experience of MS. For me, poetry is a place where I can explore that which I don’t yet understand about my brain and body; that which I find difficult to articulate in prose; that which doesn’t fit into a neat anecdote.

"Accordingly, I have developed the Poetry and Multiple Sclerosis (P.a.M.S.) Study, at the University of Edinburgh, in which I am inviting people living with MS to try writing poems about their illness. In this way, we can explore whether poetry may give us new ways to communicate our MS to those around us.

"People living with MS in the UK may be eligible to take part in the P.a.M.S. study which is happening online. Participation involves up to two interviews with me, and attending informal poetry workshops where there will be opportunities to try writing poems. After the workshops, participants will be invited to share one or more of their poems with somebody they trust, such as a friend or family member, however nobody will be obliged to share their writing if they do not wish to do so.

"No previous poetry experience is required, although if people have written poems before, they are also very welcome to participate.

"To find out more about the P.a.M.S. Study, take a look at our website. If you have any questions or would like to discuss taking part, the contact details are on the site. I’d love to hear from you!"

If you might be interested in taking part in the P.a.M.S. Study, see the Take Part page on their website at

Categories: News

Poetry Map of Scotland: poem no. 320

Tuesday 23 June 2020, 14:13

Windows Lit in the Evening
What are these houses about?
Why are they there at all?
And why when they turn on the lights
they close the blinds?
If you carefully peek through
there are people cooking
or resting
TVs on
confronted by empty couches
toys laid on the floor
coats, scarves carelessly hung somewhere.

Why are the people having windows looking to the fields
if they close the blinds at sleep?
What’s the view of their dreams
if not a valley
lit in the sunshine
and lit in the sunsets;
a topic to write about.

The mist is touching on the ground
harvesting the soil
growing itself to shapes of imagination
and hallucination
as they are seen
behind steamed-up windows
underneath the numbing lights.

By the time sun breaks in
the ghostly figures will have disappeared
as they always do
leaving behind
hunted minds
moist land
and numb feelings.

Eleni Kotsira

View our full map of Scotland in Poems as it grows »

For instructions on how to submit your own poems, click here

All poems from our Poetry Map of Scotland  are subject to copyright and should not be reproduced otherwise without the poet's permission.

Categories: Poetry Map

Poetry Map of Scotland: poem no. 319

Monday 22 June 2020, 19:41

Skirmish at Knockan Crag

The bairns o' the Cambrian dynasty,
the quartzites and limestones,
in Assynt they had gathered
to meet their foe head on.

They waited and they waited
and time was hanging slow.
No matter how they baited,
the gneisses did not show.

They clustered for a council
around the Knockan Crag.
Outliers on the horizon
had spotted something bad.

To the west the oceans parted,
their wait would soon be o'er,
the Lewisian Gneisses were gathering
and in time would breach thon shore.

Young Cambrians stood undaunted,
they did not fear the flow
of the old rocks on manoeuvre,
as they pressed in, sure but slow.

But they'd failed to spot the danger
and before the chance to blink (a short geological timescale)
the Moine was thrusting o'er them
and the Cambo's were doomed to sink.

Then it was all over,
but it all seemed upside down
to the geo experts gathered,
of whom many could only frown.  

Ian Mcneish

Poet's note: The inspiration is the Moine Thrust: this is the location where geologists first discovered that tectonic plates do not necessarily lie youngest to the top. The poem is set as a battle for supremacy of the old and the new plates as they merged a long, long time ago.

View our full map of Scotland in Poems as it grows »

For instructions on how to submit your own poems, click here

All poems from our Poetry Map of Scotland  are subject to copyright and should not be reproduced otherwise without the poet's permission.

Categories: Poetry Map

June live poetry round up

Sunday 21 June 2020, 13:16

Happy midsummer!

We all miss live events but while these are not possible, it's great to see what a glorious array of poetry on audio and video is available currently online. We will have more about our own StAnza offerings soon. Meantime, here is some of what is coming up this week, or soon, which we hope will be of interest.

HappenStance are starting a new Conversations with Poets series, in which Helena Nelson talks to poets about their work. The events are free but you do need to register in advance as places are limited.

The first of these is on Thursday 25 June, followed by a second on 2 July.

Alan Buckley: Poetry & Trauma

Thursday 25 June, 6.30 – 7.15 pm GMT

Charlotte Gann: Poetry & What is Not Said

Thursday 2 July, 6.30 – 7.15 pm GMT

HappenStance have also been running poetry workshops. You can find out more about their events at:

If you'd rather just listen than watch, then check out Trafika Europe Radio – Europe’s literary radio station is free online at:

Coming up this evening on Trakika Europe Radio is a discussion between Andrew Singer and Dutch poet & novelist Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer (Michelle Hutchison is his translator into English). They discuss form in poetry, the theme of migration in literature, and more.

That's Sunday 21 June 9pm BST, and previous sessions are available as podcasts on Trafika Europe’s website.

Meantime, we have added 25 poems to StAnza's Poetry Map of Scotland over recent weeks, so why not enjoy a trip around Scotland via poetry:

Finally, you can see other poetry material we've made available online recently at this link.

Categories: News
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