I spent another great weekend in St Andrews getting thoroughly poetry’d up last week.
Tishani Doshi and John Burnside were Friday night’s highlights, followed by some open mic in the bar of the Byre. The Byre theatre was open this year after its financial problems last March, and a delightful little space it is (I remember my own little one-act play Entre-deux-Mers playing there several years ago).
Saturday was one of those exhausting days when you know you may run out of steam at some point because you have optimistically bought too many tickets. I know last year I had to take time out for a pub lunch and a game of rugby on the big screen, but this year I made it to all my events.
I took in a Poetry Breakfast discussing notions of home, then on to the Ron Silliman Round Table where an irate German in the audience decided to rant and stamp his feet like some kind of big Teutonic baby. He seemed dismayed that the table was not, as advertised, round. Anyway, he eventually buggered off, thank goodness, and let the rest of us listen to the great American socialist (and there aren’t many of them to the pound, that’s for sure). I also caught his reading of Northern Soul later in the day and thoroughly enjoyed it. If you don’t know his work, start here at his blog: http://ronsilliman.blogspot.co.uk/
In between these Sillimans, I took in the Border Crossing with J.O. Morgan, and Tomica Bajsić. It was a remarkable session with the Croatian rendering his tough and lyrical poetry alongside stories of his part in the war that tore the old Yugoslavia apart, and Morgan giving us a stunning eye-witness chronicle of the Anglo-Saxons versus the Vikings in 991. We could have been At Maldon. It was a compelling event.
And earlier still, I went to my very good friend Kathrine Sowerby‘s reading at the Scottish Book Trust Showcase. Kathrine’s work is beautiful and she read it beautifully. She is presently being mentored by the great Scottish poet John Glenday and working on her first collection, provisionally titled Whatever There Is. Kathrine blogs here: http://kathrinesowerby.com/
Of the other readers at the Showcase, I particularly enjoyed Marion McCready – she is writing some impressive, arresting poetry at the moment.
Here is Marion’s Calder Wood Press pamphlet, Vintage Sea. She has a full collection coming out soon from Eyewear. It’s titled Tree Language.
Read and listen to Marion here:
However, the climax of my 2014 StAnza experience was on Sunday morning. Paul Muldoon selected one of my poems to be part of his Masterclass in the Town Hall. And to add to the pleasure, my great friend Vicki Husband also had a poem chosen – an exceptional, incantatory poem driven by her trip to New Zealand last year. It is called ‘Settling the Creeks’ and I hope you get to hear her read it. It’s a real treat.
Muldoon was a wonderful host of the very public workshop, and was kind, gentle and astute as to the strengths of the poems and also how they can be pushed further in redrafts. I now have some work to do on my poem ‘Ring on the Hob’ before it rushes out into the world.
Altogether another marvellous StAnza weekend. And fish and chips in Anstruther on the way home. Top banana.