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.