Scottish Poetry News: November 2017

Our poetry columnist looks at the T.S. Eliot prize shortlist and an exciting announcement from StAnza

Feature by Clare Mulley | 02 Nov 2017
  • Jura Unbound 2014: Listings Books

With the 25th anniversary of the T.S. Eliot prize fast approaching, waiting for the shortlist is finally over. In honour of the landmark year the prize has been bumped up to £25,000, but a record total of 154 submissions has made the task of choosing even tougher for judges Bill Herbert, James Lasdun and Helen Mort. The taglines ‘grief, pleasure, place and history’ are apparently the main linking threads between the shortlisted collections. This hurdle is the real lap of honour, as all have passed the most difficult stage of being singled out from so many peers; under such circumstances, winning is only the cherry on top.

As usual, there is a satisfying lot to chew over; St Andrean wordsmiths Douglas Dunn and Roddy Lumsden are in the final ten with The Noise of a Fly (Faber & Faber) and So Glad I’m Me (Bloodaxe). These – along with Irish poets Tara Bergin and Leontia Flynn, plus Welsh poet Robert Minhinnick – mean the Celtic contingent are very strongly represented. It is pleasing to see that the North of England is also making its mark, with Caroline Bird’s In These Days of Prohibition (Carcanet) and Michael Symmons Robert’s Mancunia (Cape Poetry) in the running. Ocean Vuong, Jacqueline Saphra and James Sheard are the final three, ensuring a real mixture of ages, experiences and influences. The shortlist readings will take place on Sunday 14 January 2018 in the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, hosted again by Ian McMillan.

Speaking of anniversaries, StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival (Wednesday 7-Sunday 11 March 2018) will be celebrating its 21st anniversary soon."Next year’s festival is a significant milestone for StAnza which held its very first festival twenty years ago in 1998,” says StAnza Festival Director, Eleanor Livingstone. “We’re delighted to be welcoming some of the biggest names from the literary world and friends of StAnza old and new to St Andrews to celebrate our special anniversary year.”

“Over the last twenty years we have endeavoured to bring together a diverse mix of well known talent with new, up-and-coming poets to create a programme which is fresh and vibrant. This year we have pulled out all the stops to put together a programme which is truly fitting of such an exciting year for StAnza and we look forward to revealing more names over the coming months."

Among the headline poets appearing will be Sinéad Morrissey, winner of the prestigious Forward Prize for Poetry and former Belfast Poet Laureate and T.S. Eliot prize winner. She is joined by former Scots Makar Liz Lochhead and Scottish poet and jazz musician Don Paterson, who will be in conversation with Marie-Elsa Bragg, daughter of Melvyn Bragg. Also on the programme for 2018 is Gillian Allnutt, who was awarded The Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry earlier this year; Tara Bergin, winner of the Seamus Heaney First Collection Prize in 2014 and continually ascendant Scottish poet William Letford.

Sasha de Buyl, Literature Officer at Creative Scotland adds: “StAnza has established itself as one of Europe’s leading showcases of contemporary poetry over the last 20 years. Since its inception in 1998, StAnza has continually offered a diverse programme of world class contemporary poetry to growing audiences of all ages, celebrating some of the most exciting local and international names in poetry and nurturing emerging talent.”

StAnza traditionally focuses on two themes which interweave with each other to give each annual festival its own unique flavour. Next year’s themes are ‘The Self’ and ‘Borderlines’, offering much potential for discussing current affairs through poetry, as well as celebrating the art of self-expression in its own right. It will also have a focus on the younger generation, as part of Scotland’s Year of Young People.