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 Pilots — Roddy 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!