Things I Love Thursday #31: StAnza special!

Brilliant StAnza events.
Well, my very first visit to Scotland’s International Poetry Festival was a definite success! The Boy and I got up super-early on Friday morning to get the first bus — the only bus that would get us there in time for the Poetry Breakfast at 10am. I was glad we did this, despite being knackered by the end of the day — the subject of the Breakfast (which took the form of a panel discussion) was Scotland’s current lack of young (under age 40) poetic talent. I didn’t agree with everything, and, if I’m honest, took exception to some of the stuff that was said (by, er, one particular member of the panel, who I won’t name, but who at one point said “young Scottish poets really need to start going against Edwin Morgan’s aesthetic” — er, which one?! — and later, “the young Scottish poets that are out there don’t make the cut, they need to be more dangerous.” Well thanks! A definition of “dangerous”, a seriously ambiguous word, would have been nice, but I guess we’ll all just have to carry on being “safe,” which was what you implied. GRRR). However, loads of really good points were raised, and I could happily have sat and listened to the discussion continue for hours and hours.
Next, we went to see Roddy and the PilotsRoddy Lumsden introducing five of his young proteges and their pamphlets. Again, if I am totally honest, I was a little disappointed with this event — not because of the quality of the poetry, which was generally excellent, but because of the quality of the readings. I feel I’ve missed a trick here — is very serious, monotone reading a new trend? These were young, vibrant poets reading beautiful, sad, funny, sparky poetry… but there was so little emotion in the performance (with the exception of Adam O’Riordan, who read really well — and who you should check out! — though sometimes he was a bit overcome by The Poetry Voice!). I came away really wanting to buy the books and read the poems myself, but not because I was totally sold on them — more because I felt I wanted to experience them “properly.” I’ve heard many a blogger complain that all too often, writers aren’t good readers of their own work, and this really brought it home to me. I suppose these poets are all young and perhaps not too experienced, which does excuse it a bit. Of all their stuff, far and away the best poet among them (for me) was Jay Bernard, whose poetry was poignant, honest, brutal and beautiful. Her reading was actually OK, just very quiet!! Check her out, though — she’s brilliant.
Totally the opposite in terms of reading: next we went to have a pie and a pint with Kevin Cadwallender (for reals! We got a free pint and a Scotch pie! Boy was pleased), who is just downright awesome. He read a fantastic variety of his work, from his very first book — which I have never seen, but I loved the stuff from it and will have to seek it out! — up to his brand new one. His work really bridges the boundary between page and performance like no one else’s, and his pieces are observant, funny, touching and true. You really, really ought to grab one of his books if you can — I’d highly recommend either Colouring in Guernica (from Red Squirrel Press, who are publishing my pamphlet soon!) and Dances with Vowels, his latest from Smokestack.
We spent the afternoon listening to Alan Gillis — first of all, lecturing on Wallace Stevens (with Jenny Bernholdt lecturing on Lorine Niedecker at the same event), and secondly reading some of his newer work alongside Julia Copus. I know Alan is my tutor and so I have to be nice about him, but I really do love his poetry, and I’m absolutely in awe of his ability to hold the attention of an audience, even when reading really long poems or sequences of poems. I heard some of his sonnet sequence, which I’ve heard before and absolutely love — I don’t think it’s in book form yet, but the sooner the better! Alan’s a master of sound and rhythm, and you really have to hear him read to fully “get” the nuances of his work, I think. Really brilliant stuff. A word on Jenny Bernholdt too — her lecture on Lorine Niedecker was brilliant. I haven’t seen a lot of Niedecker’s work, but what I have seen, I really enjoyed. Like a good lecture should, it left me really wanting to find out more about Niedecker and read some more of her work.
The Boy and I also paid a quick visit to the open mic at the end of the day, although I’d totally forgotten about it and (thought — I later found some poems in my bag!) I hadn’t taken anything to read. Nancy Somerville read her brilliant Bucket of Frogs poem from Waiting for Zebras (another Red Suqirrel book), and Swiss also took to the stage and read a great piece. Being absolutely shattered, we left by about 11 (we also didn’t want to wake up the other guests at the very swish B&B we were staying at!)… but it was a really fantastic day, even for the only-slightly-poetically-minded Boy!

One Night StAnzas
On Saturday, Read This Magazine, Read This Press, this collection and One Night Stanzas set up shop at the StAnza Poets’ Market (after Boy and I had spent a lovely morning wandering around an unseasonably hot and sunny St Andrews…), which was great fun and incredibly successful! We were offering free back-issues of every copy of Read This Magazine so far, as well as the brand new this collection special issue (which is coming out for general consumption soon!), and just requesting voluntary donations for all copies of RT. We were also selling Skin Deep, You Old Soak, ONS pins and my literary jewellery, including special edition, especially-for-StAnza typewriter bracelets. I was absolutely shocked — I sold ALL of the bracelets within the first twenty minutes of the stall opening… people kept coming up and saying “OK, I’ve just run out to get cash, now I’d like to buy one of your bracelets”, and I had to say “sorry, they’ve gone!” The interest was phenomenal… as a result, there will be a new batch of jewels in the RT store very soon –watch this space!
We also sold a fair stack of Skin Deeps and You Old Soaks (23 books in all) and received so many compliments on the appearance of all our publications, which was lovely. When we checked our final tally sheet, we realised we had put nearly 150 units of hot, fresh literature into the hands of the StAnza visitors. Not bad for a day’s work… and takings into three figures! That’s a lot of paper and card and contributor-copy postage… so thanks a million to everyone who came by, chatted, bought and donated. We love you!

You can read more StAnza accounts from Rachel, Swiss, Rob, Andy and Sorlil. Want to see some pictures of our poetic weekend? Check them out here!

Were you at StAnza? Did you visit the RT/ONS stall? What did you go to? Get in touch!

(Photo by Cara Allen).

Don’t forget to visit the One Night Stanzas store & The Read This Store!

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13 Responses to “Things I Love Thursday #31: StAnza special!”

  1. Crafty Green Poet Says:

    The people who complain about the lack of young poets in Edinburgh are just not looking in the right places and are also victims of their own restricted view of what a new young poet should sound like (and yes the monotone reading seems very much to be part of the current fashion)

    Sounds like you had a great time.

  2. Christian Ward Says:

    Sounds like fun :)

  3. Weston Holder Says:

    … what about the lack of young talent(under 20) in America? We need a convetion for that…

    Okay, mabye we don’t need a convention. We just need to get out there and show them what we can do!

    I should probably put this on dA… but they know who i am.
    (And where I live…)

  4. H. Says:

    I am kind of wondering why there isn’t “young writers” (under 20) conventions anywhere,really (maybe there is … ? But nothing huge.) AWP is the US writer’s convention and I know a TON of people who went, but I am 26 … (which might be older than you’re talking) so yeah. A meeting or convention of some kind of under-20s is an interesting idea, definitely. But at the same time … it’s not like AWP will bar you for being young. So it’s up to everyone to really read up on this stuff and seek it out.

    -H.

  5. Claire Says:

    Hehe, in this case they were actually discussing poets under 40, believe it or not… Scotland has a real drought (apparently) of decent poets born pre-1969! When it comes to poets under 20, well… you don’t see many of those in the mainstream simply because most people aren’t good enough to publish “properly” until they’re over 20… but that doesn’t mean to say that teen poets shouldn’t be encouraged. A ‘teen’ poet convention could be really, really interesting. *ponders*…

  6. Rob Says:

    “The people who complain about the lack of young poets in Edinburgh are just not looking in the right places…” (Crafty Green Poet)

    To be fair, the complaint isn’t about any lack of young poets in Scotland, but a lack of those who have won Gregory Awards or been taken up by major poetry publsihers over the last 15 years. I agree that it doesn’t take account of those poets who have very different priorities, but it’s that particular lack that’s the focus of these discussions.

    I was astonished by the idea that emerging Scottish poets hadn’t been writing material that was “dangerous” enough. I’ve no idea what that means.

    I also dislike the monotone style. There is a ‘poetry voice’ I don’t like, but I don’t mind if people use a non-conversational voice when reading poems, especially if their poems aren’t written in a casual style. You’ve got me thinking about posting something on the poetry voice now.

  7. Claire Says:

    Rob — it is interesting to wonder whether Scottish poetry is just taking a different direction, I hadn’t thought of that. Perhaps the focus is just elsewhere at present, in pamphlet publishing, performance poetry and the like (Christie Williamson mentioned in the debate that he did know a lot of younger poets on the performance circuit, but obviously they didn’t move in the right circles to really go for the Gregory etc). But I think you and Crafty both have a point — we need more young poets “getting places” in Scotland, but perhaps they are already around. We just need to seek them out and encourage them!

    Yes… the ‘dangerous’ comment infuriated me — it was brought up by one member of the panel (OK, it was Stuart Kelly) three times; obviously in the hope that it would be picked up and discussed, but no one else was biting. It was implied that young Scottish poets are a bit boring, basically, and I couldn’t help but think of people like Andy, Cheryl Follon, Char Runcie even, and thought that was very unfair. It wasn’t elaborated on either, and there was no argument put forward for how Scottish poets ought to BECOME ‘dangerous’!

    I just wrote a post about this on… Tuesday, I think. It elaborates a bit on The Poetry Voice — obviously I don’t think you should read in the same voice you use to order a pizza or whatever, but at the same time you can ruin poems by being over the top! You should write something yourself, I’ll link back.

  8. Desmond Swords Says:

    I have blogged on my take on Kelly’s lament for the lack of *dangerous* poetry.

    I only heard the podcast at Colin’s and may be wrong in asserting that Kelly’s theory sounds wonky and is down to an incomplete view that’s missing the one big piece of the jigsaw I didn’t hear mentioned by him on the podcast (but which may have been, was it Claire?) - the world wibe web.

    His pitch as I understood it, is that because of the disappearance of 25 lit-mags since he got out of short pants and went to work in the critic factory, the *seedbeds* for any dangerous poet’s work to flower in - the kids have nowhere to publish, he can’t see them and thus this is convincing supporting evidence for his claim.

    If he is thinking the net is irrelevant to what’s happening in poetry at the mo, he is clearly mistaken, and my take (which may be wrong) subject to him not mentioning the net, is that he has his head in the past and may well not be open to recognising the dangerous poetry he wants to see. I dunno, but either way, since the genuinely new generation appeared in the last two years, people like you Askew and other whizzes who are playing the same game in a wholly different way, you lot are ideally placed to break the logjam of Gregoryless poets wandering lonely and grey, by surfing the contemporary tide and sweeping up the baubles which decorate the CV.

    You are hip, in the past the career management aspect of poetry was undertaken by the senior balding grey haired suits who could coral and parade the talent in their stable, without any exterior inteference and the strategems of a few clever blokes, paid off, the presentation of seemingly natural poetic phenomana - groups of poets who can all be packaged as the new wave, and thus sell at the shops with a clear promotional hook, as if it just happened rather than being the result of lots of planning and hard work by the bosses.

    And poetry being a minority sport, one reason (perhaps) there’s been no Greg gongs in Scotland since before Farley and Patterson had hair, is a because of general poetic malaise and sense of helplessness about not being winners !! amongst the ones who missed the boat that took their contempories doon sawf. Maybe not, but it sounds logical, even if incorrect.

    But every drought ends, and all it takes is people with vim and can do attitudes who are unaffected by events that happened when they were playing hopscotch. And with you (and those like you) doing something totally new by not relying on the old one trick horse out of town which amounted to bending the knee and sitting at the feet of the wise old stable masters who engineered the last glut of gongs up there by marshalling the talent into one promotional and commerically viable pool of New Gens - you’re laughing because, with the poetry village being very big on actors waiting for a faery godperson to come and whisk them to the stars, but very small on multidisciplined all rounders who can write the stuff, pack it up and flog it (in the mould of Astley and Schmidt) you will draw positive attention to your activities because so few have the gumption to do what is now reletively easy to with the all in one portal and shop window opportunities not here when the train puled out with Don in the drivers cabin all those years ago.

    The next departure’s due and a combination of luck, talent, ability and graft, means I wanna be your mate and hope some of the faery dust rubs of on me in ten years from now when there will be legions of female poets smiling through gritted teeth when you step up to the lectern and start gassing about how to be a success in the village.

    Just write poems, keep humble, forget about the competition and be yourself and your stable could tip out the next mob.

    ~

    However, I did agree with Kelly on the dangerous bit. I don’t think he meant poets who are personally dangerous, but what’s in the head being so, in the sense of being unafraid to commit heresy and swim against the priests pontificating now - who remember, started out as the punks and rebels saying the gen before them were boring old farts.

    He said he detects a lot of stuff that looks like a poem, smells like one and all the rest of it, but lacks the *dangerous spark* which means you have to take notice of it. He said he met a women who was adament that Eliot’s work *was not poetry* and that’s the sort of thing he was referring to, to write stuff that demands a reaction because it is so different and new. Stand out from the composite poetry, the earnest well made mag-fodder which all reads as though it was written by the same person. Be unafraid essentially, I think he meant.

    gra gaus siochain

    ha ha ha - your sacked Askew, your not Scottish, your English, English, not like me who’s Irish and speaks like Kev of Corrie.

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