StAnza - Poetry, Anyone?

If you've any interest in poetry at all, the StAnza festival should be right up your street.

Feature by Keir Hind | 03 Mar 2009

StAnza is Scotland’s premier poetry festival, running from the 18th to the 22nd of March, and taking place in St Andrews. The festival aims to offer something for everyone, from the most avid poetry fan to casual passers-by. The 5-day programme is crammed with readings, performances, exhibitions and lectures, providing a large variety of poetic experiences all in the one place.

The festival is launched by Alex Salmond on the 18th, and once he’s out of the way there’ll be singing, violin-playing and other sorts of pleasant chaos. The hub of the festival will be its Poetry Centre Stage events. These will include readings by some of poetry’s biggest names, such as Robert Crawford and Kate Clanchy on the 19th, Yorkshire poet and Radio 2 favorite Simon Armitage with New Zealand’s poet laureate Bill Manhire on the 20th, Scotland’s own Carol Ann Duffy joined by performance poet Patience Agbabi on the 21st, and this will all be rounded off by Peter Porter and Helen Dunmore on the last day.

Around this solid spine will be a series of more unconventional events. If seeing Simon Armitage and Carol Ann Duffy on stage isn’t enough for you, they’ll both be performing intimate ‘Round Table’ readings, as will Thomas A Clark – book early, because space is limited. And if you’ve got any poetic ambitions yourself, then you might like to consider attending one of the poetry masterclasses, where poets will comment on work submitted by participants. Bill Manhire will be hosting one of these, as will Douglas Dunn.
If you have more of a taste for listening to discussions about well-known poets, then there will be a series of talks about the famous. Burns is well represented, with talks about Tam O’Shanter, about how his work will fare in the future, and about his relationship with women, in his work and otherwise. David McClay, curator of the John Murray archive, will be discussing Lord Byron, and the American poet and critic Jay Parini will be discussing Robert Frost, among many other events.

Some of the most entertaining events should be the ones springing from St Andrews itself. The Inklight poets, from St Andrews' creative writing society, present their work in late readings on the 18th. St Andrews' performing arts group, the Mermaids, will present two (free) shows on Sunday the 22nd. And there will of course be a poetry slam on Saturday the 21st. Entries for the slam are still welcomed, if you’re feeling brave…

This is just touching on some of the many events at the StAnza festival – check out their website for more details. The whole thing will be finished up with more controlled musical chaos from Heeliegoleerie late on the 22nd. If you’ve any interest in poetry at all, StAnza is bound to hold something for you, so please take a look – and, if you look closely, you’ll see that a good many of the events are free, too…

The StAnza festival will run from the 18th to the 22nd of March. For more details, see here.