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StAnza International Poetry Festival

Participants: Past Poets

 Past Poets

Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh’s New Town in 1850. Throughout his childhood, he suffered chronic health problems which confined him to bed. However as an adult he travelled the world and became one of the most famous Scottish writers of the 19th century.  His best known works include his volume of children’s verse, A Child’s Garden of Verse, and the novels Treasure Island, Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  He died aged only 44 years old in the Samoan islands in the Pacific.

Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796) is widely regarded as Scotland’s national poet and is acknowledged as The Bard. A sometime farmer and excise officer, his first collection, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, published in 1786 was an immediate success. After his early death he became a great source of inspiration to libertarian thinkers, and later a cultural icon in Scotland and amongst the Scottish Diaspora around the world. Burns also collected folk songs from across Scotland, often revising or adapting them. He is one of the most internationally acclaimed poets from any country, studied and appreciated worldwide.

Born in Aberdeen in 1788, George Gordon Lord Byron became as famous during his lifetime for his personality cult as for his poetry. His published works include Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and The Corsair which created the idea of the 'Byronic hero', dark and brooding. In 1816 condemned for his scandalous affairs, and heavily in debt, Byron quit England. Initially he lived in Geneva with the Shelleys, later moving to Italy. In 1823 he set off to take part in the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire, but died of fever in Missolonghi the following April before seeing military action.

W S (William Sydney) Graham was born in Greenock in 1918. He studied engineering but in 1944 left Scotland for London where he met TS Eliot, then editor at Faber and Faber, and enjoyed the Bohemian literary scene. Later Graham settled in Cornwall near the St Ives artists colony and became friendly with painters. Devoted to his writing, he endured great poverty for much of his life. His published works include The Nightfishing published in 1955 and Malcolm Mooney’s Land (1970), but Graham’s poetry gained him little recognition until after his death in 1986.

Robert Frost (1874–1963) was born in San Francisco, and moved to New England at the age of ten.  Throughout his life he owned a succession of farms in Hew Hampshire, and taught at various colleges, including Amherst in Massachusetts and Middlebury in Vermont.  A poet of rural life and experience, attuned to nature and the spiritual side of life, and widely recognised as American’s unofficial poet laureate, Frost was great exponent of traditional verse forms: he once famously denounced free verse as like trying “to play tennis with the net down”.

Douglas Livingstone (1932- 1996) is one of the major South African poets of the 20th century. Born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, of Scottish parentage, as a child he moved with his family to live in South Africa. His volumes of poetry include The Skull in the Mud (1960), Sjambok and Other Poems from Africa (1964), Poems (1968, with Thomas Kinsella and Anne Sexton), Eyes Closed against the Sun (1970), A Rosary of Bone (1975, republished with additional poems in 1983), The Anvil's Undertone (1978), A Littoral Zone (1991), Giovanni Jacopo meditates (1995), and Selected Poems (1984). He also translated Shona poetry and wrote radio plays. Livingstone received the BBC Federal Broadcasting Corporation Prize (1964), the Guinness Poetry Prize (1965), the Cholmondeley Poetry Prize (1970), the Olive Schreiner Prize (1975) for his second radio play, and the CNA Award (1985) for Selected Poems

Lorine Niedecker (1903–70) was born and spent most her life in Wisconsin, before moving to Milwaukee in the mid-60s.  A friend of Louis Zukofsky, and later Cid Corman and Basil Buntin, Niedecker published only three collections in her lifetime and remained relatively unknown, but in recent years her work has at last been gaining the wider recognition it deserves.  Her remarkable poetry, rich in vivid imagery and metaphysical concerns, is highly concentrated, often verging on the abstract: she herself used the word “condensery” to describe it.

Wallace Stevens (1879–1955) was one of America’s most important modernist poets, inventive, philosophical and hugely influential.  Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, by profession a lawyer in New York, and then an insurance executive in Hartford, Connecticut, Stevens’s first collection, Harmonium, was published in 1923 (drawing praise from Hart Crane and others), but he only became more widely known with the works that appeared later in his life, including The Man With the Blue Guitar (1937), Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction (1942), The Auroras of Autumn (1947), and his collection of poetic essays, The Necessary Angel (1951).

StAnza 2009 Events:

Thu 19 March | Lord Byron: Uncovering a Poet
David McClay, curator of the John Murray Archive at the National Library of Scotland.
The Town Hall, Queens Gardens – Council Chamber

Thu 19 March | Past & Present
Marco Fazzini on Douglas Livingstone Jay Parini on Robert Frost
The Town Hall, Queens Gardens – Council Chamber

Fri 20 March | Tam O’Shanter and the Fairy Cult
Talk on Burns’ poem by Drew Clegg
The Town Hall, Queens Gardens – Council Chamber

Fri 20 March | Past & Present
Alan Gillis on Wallace Stevens Jenny Bornholdt on Lorine Niedecker
The Town Hall, Queens Gardens – Council Chamber

Sat 21 March | Poets of the Scottish Enlightenment & the 18th Century Gaelteachd
Talk: Robert Crawford & Angus Peter Campbell
The Town Hall, Queens Gardens – Council Chamber

Sun 22 March | Burns – the next 250 years
Talk by Drew Clegg
The Town Hall, Queens Gardens – Council Chamber

Sun 22 March | Out of his Head
Kenneth Price: One-man play on the life of poet W S Graham
The Byre Theatre, Abbey Street – Studio Theatre

Sun 22 March | The Land of Counterpane
Children’s Show (Age 7+): An afternoon of Robert Louis Stevenson themed poetry and play with Robert Crawford, Sara Lodge & Bill Manhire
The Town Hall, Queens Gardens – Supper Room

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