Monday, March 23, 2009

StAnza 2009, a bit of a head-rush and I was only there for the weekend!
Left home early Friday afternoon, a ferry, three trains and a bus later and I was at St. Andrews for StAnza.

As I mentioned below one of the highlights for me was getting a chance to meet and spend some time with other poetry people, many of whom are fellow bloggers. I really enjoyed spending time with swiss and his lovely girlfriend T, it was nice to chat with Rob Mackenzie, non-blogger Ross Wilson who has a couple of poems in Horizon Review and Rachel who comes across as lovely in her blog and is even lovelier in person. Though more briefly it was nice to meet Hugh McMillan but I forgot to get him to sign the books I have of his, Andy Philips whom I met the previous year and Colin Will who was run off his feet as one of the festival organisers.
Also said a quick hello to Claire Askew - the ever energetic author of the excellent One Night Stanzas blog, and it was nice to meet the renowned Scottish poet Roddy Lumsden whose book launch I would have liked to attend but all the tickets were sold out.

Okay now for the events. Surprisingly the readings I enjoyed the most were by poets I hadn't heard of before the festival. On the Friday night I went to the Bill Manhire and Simon Armitage reading. Not being a huge fan of Armitage, though I like a lot of his work well enough, I enjoyed his reading apart from the refrain in one poem he read which was really starting to get on my nerves. Bill Manhire, a former laureate of New Zealand, was very enjoyable to listen to, I wish I had bought his book.

After the reading I stayed for the open mic event after being coerced by swiss into putting my name forward to do a reading (only kidding swiss ;)). It was good to get the horror of a first reading over and done with. Now I know never to read that poem in public again as I can't breathe and read it at the same time! It was fun to hear all the different poets and poems, including hearing swiss read one of his lovely poems. By the time it was finished it was after midnight, swiss and T had left for their long drive home and all the men-folk were going out for a pub-crawl and I didn't fancy drooling over their pints whilst stuck drinking irn-bru. So I planned to head down to the beach for a walk but couldn't remember how to get there and instead settled for a kebab shop and a portion of chips - put it down to cravings!

The next morning I went to the poetry breakfast discussion on poetry and song lyrics with a panel which included Simon Armitage, the very nice Ian Rankin and was chaired by Roddy Lumsden. Rachel has done a thorough write-up on the event here. After that I rushed off to a reading by Ros Brackenbury and Annie Boutelle, neither of whom I had heard before. I loved Annie Boutelle's reading. For me, it was the best reading of the week-end. I purchased her most recent collection which is called Nest of Thistles and I love it. Annie Boutelle is a Scottish born and raised poet who's been living in America for the last forty plus years.
In the afternoon I went to the Ian Rankin in Conversation event which I thoroughly enjoyed. Rankin comes across as a genuinely nice guy, very down to earth and very chatty. He talked about the poetry he wrote as a teenager and undergrad, also about the poets he enjoys such as Eliot and WCW. He talked about his use of poetry in his crime novels which was very interesting.

I should have known after last year that five o'clock readings don't suit me, it's when I start to flag, lose concentration, get hungry (though I'm always hungry at the moment!) need the loo etc. I went to the Jay Parini and Jenny Bornholdt reading at five o'clock and didn't get the best out of it that I should have because they were both excellent readers of their work and both very interesting.

That left me with the Patience Agbabi and Carol Ann Duffy reading in the evening. Although Agbabi's poems aren't, for the most part, really my cup of tea she is an excellent performer of her poems and I very much enjoyed her reading and Duffy read a number of poems from her The World's Wife collection which I really enjoyed.

Sunday morning was my last event and it was the masterclass with Douglas Dunn. There were six of us sitting up at the table with Douglas Dunn with a poem each that we had to read out and which was then discussed by Dunn and the audience. Yours truly ending up being first which was fairly nerve-racking but actually I felt a lot more at home reading my poem in the more, in a sense, academic atmosphere of the masterclass as opposed to the performance feel of the open mic. Mr Dunn was very generous with his comments, in fact he was just lovely! He said some very nice things about my poem and picked up on points that he thought I ought to re-consider. The audience were also lovely, in fact a few strangers come up to me afterwards and said they really liked my poem and one lady gave me her email address with a request that I send her some more of my work.

I had a really lovely week-end, the festival is very well run. Obviously a huge amount of organisation goes into the smooth running of such an event, I thought the organisers did a fantastic job. Dunno if I'll make it to StAnza 2010, by then I'll have a six month old baby as well as a three year old, but then maybe I'll drag them all along for a family holiday!

** books purchased this year included Nest of Thistles - Annie Boutelle
The Opposite of Cabbage - Rob Mackenzie
The Ambulance Box - Andrew Philip
All excellent collections.

16 comments:

deemikay said...

Is there anyone who didn't enjoy themselves?!

Makes me think it must have been, well, no bad. :p

Sorlil said...

I went to stanza for the first time last year and it was the first time I'd been to a poetry poetry reading never mind festival. I've really enjoyed it both times and definitely recommend it!

Rachel Fox said...

Next year we'll have to rent a house for families or something...one that comes with babysitters! Either that or get StAnza to open up a creche...in fact I like that idea...
x

Non-blog Wilson said...

It was nice meeting you the other day. Dunn really was good, I thought, his passion for poetry really coming through (what he said about Burns, and that opening image in your poem: it'd look good on the cover of your book!)

I ended up in Waterstones AGAIN after missing my bus and ended up buying Robert Frost's Collected. Tsk! oh, and I DID remember Mother's Day (if only just in the nick of time, passing through Dunfermline . . .)Terrible, I know.

Deemikay: aye, get yourself a ticket. Drink water! We'll need someone to stop the tellies crashing through the hotel windows.

Rachel: someone else mentioned getting a house though I can't remember who or where. Drinking water might be a good idea. That house, well, maybe not so good. Remember Van Gogh's dream of an artist's colony ended up with him losing an ear lobe. W'd all be shouting at one another across the poetry market then, just to be heard!

Rachel Fox said...

No the house idea was not a serious one! Can you imagine...

deemikay said...

Hey! Just because I'll be drinking water doesn't mean I don't want to throw tvs out windows!

It's much more fun when you know you're doing it... ;)

Colin Will said...

It was great to finally meet you Sorlil. I'm often mistaken for DD in St Andrews, so I grew my beard longer this year!

Sorlil said...

rachel, that house idea is a scary thought!

hi ross, yes I thought Dunn was great, oh I never went into waterstones - far too tempting!!

hi colin, it was lovely to meet you, yes you both have that distinguished philosopher look about you!

Rachel Fox said...

Yes the house thing might make a good drama (thriller? comedy? horror?) but I'm not sure we need to live through it for real...
x

Sorlil said...

another plot for mr rankin maybe?? lol

Ross W said...

well, publishers would get bored wouldn't they? They'd be scratching their heads, wondering why all the poets in Scotland were submitting poems about a house in St Andrews.

Someone else definitely mentioned the same idea over the weekend though! In jest, I'm sure, and no doubt under the influence, but, well, if you see a house with shattered tv's outside it next year, you know where to go, or avoid . . .

Rob said...

It was Patricia Ace who mentioned it in the Byre theatre bar late on Saturday evening! After a few drinks... Of course, I agreed with her wholeheartedly and said we should book something.

I wasn't really being serious, although I wouldn't mind being the Channel 4 cameraman.

Rob said...

And David, you ought to come next year. It's good, seriously, and full of fine people.

ross w said...

Ah, I was 90% sure Patricia said that. Met so many people in such a short time. Oh, and thanks for tolerating my gatecrashing Rob!

I think we should call the poets house Poosie Nansie's. A fridge full of pies and pints and bottles of wine.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Sounds like you had a great time! Like you, I'm often most impressed by the poets I've never heard before or even heard of

Sorlil said...

CPG, yes I did have a great time, thanks. I'm so glad I went to hear Annie Boutelle, I'm really enjoying her book.