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!