Monday, March 17, 2008

A Snippet of StAnza 2008

What a whirlwind of a weekend! Having had around 2 hours sleep on Friday night I got up at 5.30 to catch the first ferry then train to Glasgow followed by a train to Edinburgh then a train to St. Andrews. My day was pretty packed with poetry events, evetually got to bed at the youth hostel around 1am, back up a 6.30 for Sunday's events then made it home after 9pm last night.
It was my first time going to a poetry festival and my first time going to St. Andrews - both were in some ways quite disconcerting experiences.

The highlight for me was the Kenneth White event and the Janice Galloway in conversation. I'd not read any of Janice Galloway's poetry or prose previously but when she read from some of her books at the event I was gobsmacked. She came across as quite manic, earthy and a really interesting woman and writer.
Kenneth White was just fantastic, he read his poetry for 45 mins and it passed like the click of a finger. I loved how his accent switched so naturally beween Scottish and French in his reading and conversation. He seemed to be genuinely thoroughly enjoying himself and full of passion about his strange geopoetic theories which to me sound like a bit of a mash of Buddhism, Spinoza and Celtic mysticism.
Listening to White read was what I imagine it is to listen to a bard.
My friend's highlight of the weekend was getting Kenneth White to sign his copy of his book to someone from Kenneth Whyte (my friend's name!)signed by the author Kenneth White!!! Kenneth White seemed fairly amused by it after the initial confusion.

Other events I attended included the Glasgow poet Andy Jackson who was running late because he couldn't find the toilet and when he finally appeared intimated to the audience that a sink had done the job! He was very good with a memorable poem about getting a bus to correction. Also heard Michael Schmidt and Alison Brackenbury but didn't get the best out of that event which was when I was desperately needing food and caffeine so I must go hear them again sometime.
The StAnza Slam was excellent, I was weeping with tears of laughter at some of the performances.
Sunday morning was the masterclass translation which was an interesting experience and raised a lot of questions for me. And later on I went to the voices of Scotland and really enjoyed hearing Robert Alan Jamieson reading in his Shetlandic language/dialect - I think of it as a dialect.
Over the two days it was great putting faces to names and also meeting Rob MacKenzie and swiss.
Of course I came home with a tonne of books which was the last thing I needed!
I couldn't help popping into a secondhand bookshop and came out with -

The School Bag ed by Heaney and Hughes which I've been meaning to pick up for years
Time Passes and other poems by Walter De La Mare
an early faber edition of Robert Lowell's Selected poems
an early faber Selected Cantos of Pound
Robert Graves Selected by Himself
The Common Pursuit essays by F.R. Leavis

all in mint condition!

At StAnza I bought -

Janice Galloway's The Trick is to Keep Breathing
Nort Atlantik Drift by Robert Alan Jamieson
Open World collected poems 1960 - 2000 of Kenneth White

I also came away with a number of Scottish poetry magazines/journals which I've been meaning to find out more about.

For the most part I did feel a little bit like a fish out of water, my experience of poetry feels fairly private - between me and a page or a computer screen, and conversing with poets is generally limited to the computer screen. So it was more than a little strange to be amongst the people at StAnza and realise how public poetry is - it sounds a bit silly I know but it's given me a bit of a different perspective on it all and now I know what to expect next time, of which I'm sure there will be many!


Colin Will said...

Glad you enjoyed it Sorlil.

swiss said...

just a few books then? lol! i resisted but took notes for further purchases as my shelf state requires that another book jihad is approaching and i just cant face it

was interested in the privacy issue tho. had a bit of a conversation about this with t on the way back in the context of the benefits of this, creative writing classes and the like (if you get lucky)as a means to speak about aswell as speak poetry out loud.

Andrew Philip said...

Shetlandic: definitely a dialect of Scots, but a very distinctive one!

Surely the blog is a public space of sorts. Of course, you don't meet your readers face to face but it's certainly not entirely private.

Andrew Philip said...

I remember feelign similarly out of water when I first went to StAnza--I felt so self-conscious in the Byre bar area!--but now it feels like home.

Sorlil said...

'book jihad' lol

I guess what I mean by private is that although the internet is public, it's in the privacy of my home and these conversations are in a sense in my head. Coming face to face with the public nature of poetry at the festival felt a bit like an invasion of my thoughts and has certainly made me think differently about the spoken nature of poetry as more than just making sure it sounds alright when read aloud according to rhythm etc.

I suppose it's the same with anything you do for the first time, I'm glad to hear you also felt out of place at first! I did wonder if the fact it was at St. Andrews contributed to feeling a bit out of place - the place has a bit of a rarefied atmosphere as it is. However now I know what to expect next time and I'm certainly looking forward to going back!

Rachel Fox said...

I bought 'The trick is to keep breathing' too (for the title largely...I wasn't at any of her events though they all sound like they were fascinating). I'm half way through the book right now and glad I'm reading it this year and not a few years ago when it would have been a bit too much like everyday life!
Interesting to hear how you get on with it.

Sorlil said...

it's a great title isn't it! I'm in the middle of half a dozen books at the moment which I have to finish to get them back to people, but when I get around to Galloway's book I'll let you know how I get on. It was wonderful hearing her read extracts from it, I've never heard anyone read like that.

Rachel Fox said...

Did she say how much of the 'breathing' book was from personal experience? It's not that I'm nosey (well...not really) - I 'm just always interested in how fictional something is...also to what extent people can write about this kind of subject without the experience.

Sorlil said...

she didn't mention it though from looking at wiki she did work as a school teacher for 10 years and lost her father at the age of 6 so I'm guessing she's drawing on personal experience to some extent.

Frances said...

I'm becoming increasingly convinced by the idea of poetry in the public sphere - ie performance poetry. Some poetry sounds much better read out loud than read silently in the mind. The extra dimension gives life to the sound.

Sorlil said...

yes I think you're right, even with poetry that's not really 'performance' poetry I wasn't aware how much of a difference it makes to hear the poet read their own work

An Honest Man said...

I read all poetry out loud (to myself).

I find the physical act of shaping the sounds and the feedback from my ears much more satisfying than internalising it.

I suppose I've always thought poetry was meant to be heard.

Sorlil said...

yes you're right, poetry is meant to be heard. But I realised at StAnza that there is a vast difference between reading a poem aloud for sound and rhythm's sake and hearing a poet read out their own work.
Although I don't read every poem I come across out loud I do sound it out in my head to hear the rhythm etc but I was never really aware how much more there is to hearing a poem read aloud. Also I guess not every poet is best suited to reading out their own work!