You are viewing the StAnza Poetry Festival 2005-2014 archive
For the current festival site, go to

StAnza International Poetry Festival

Participants: Past Poets

 Past PoetsBust of Ossian (Height 45")
Alexander Stoddart

George Bruce (1909-2002) was a poet who had a strong affinity with the visual arts and artists throughout his long life. A former BBC arts producer and critic for The Sunday Times, he wrote on painting and sculpture and worked with many artists including Anne Redpath, Robin Philipson, James Cumming and Elizabeth Blackadder. In his final years, he collaborated with his friend, the artist, John Bellany, on two special projects relating poems to etchings, Woman of the North Sea and The Sacred Sea. Though of different generations, Bellany and Bruce shared a common background – the fishing communities of the North Sea.

Martin Carter, the Guyanese poet born in 1927, was a major Caribbean writer of the last century. He was imprisoned twice by the colonial government of British Guiana during the Emergency in the 1950s. Later during the 1960s, he became a minister in Guyana’s first independent government and represented his country at the United Nations. However after several years he resigned, disillusioned with politics, prefering to focus on his poetry. He was one of the first Caribbean authors to write about slavery and Amerindian history, a poet whose work dealt with public and private matters with insight and anger, and also sometimes with hope. He died in 1997.

Nunzio ‘Gregory’ Corso (1930-2001) was born in Greenwich Village, New York, to teenage Italian-American parents. His mother left a month after he was born, and his father took little interest in his son, so he was brought up in a variety of foster homes and institutions. While living on the street he drifted into petty crime, and was first jailed at the age of 13. At 17 he stole a used suit, and was imprisoned in New York’s maximum security prison, where he was ‘adopted’ by the Mafia, and educated himself in the prison library (donated by ‘Lucky’ Luciano). He started writing poetry, met up with Allen Ginsberg, and became the youngest member of the ‘Beat Poets’ inner circle. His poetry is lyrical, literate, passionate, sometimes polemical and always individual.

Ivor Cutler, born in Glasgow on January 15th, 1923, was a wholly original Scottish poet, songwriter and humorist whose eccentric genius appealed to successive generations both inside and beyond his native country. He studied at Glasgow School of Art before starting to teach, subsequently moving south and eventually becoming long time resident in North London. His career included teaching at A. S. Neill’s Summerhill School, appearing in The Beatles Mystery Tour film, and on Neil Innes’s television programmes.  He also recorded a total of twenty-one sessions between 1969 and 1991 for John Peel’s radio show. His work was variously dark, witty, caustic and surreal yet often poignant. He died in 2006 aged 83.

Mahmoud Darwish (also Darwich, 1942 – 2008) has been described as “the poetic voice of the Palestinian people”.  One of the most acclaimed poets of his generation, he was also the author of the 1988 Palestinian Declaration of Independence. Much of his adult life was spent in exile, living in Moscow, Cairo, Beirut, Cyprus and Paris; he returned in 1996, to live in Ramallah. Darwish published over twenty volumes of poetry in Arabic; the most recent English translation of his work is The Butterfly’s Burden (Copper Canyon/Bloodaxe, 2007), which collects together The Stranger’s Bed (1998), A State of Siege (2002) and Don’t Apologise for What You’ve Done (2003). On his death in 2008, three days of national mourning were declared, and Darwish was honoured with a state funeral in Ramallah.

Jane Kenyon (1947 - 1995) was an American poet and translator whose work is often characterized as simple and yet emotionally resonant. She met the poet Donald Hall while she was still a student and they were later married. Four collections of Kenyon's poems were published during her lifetime: Constance (1993), Let Evening Come (1990), The Boat of Quiet Hours (1986), and From Room to Room (1978). She also wrote translations of the work of Russian poet Anna Akhmatova (published as Twenty Poems of Anna Akhmatova, 1985). She wrote frequently about her battle with depression, and was poet laureate for New Hampshire at the time of her death in April of 1995 from leukaemia.

Alasdair Maclean was a poet and prose writer born in Glasgow in 1926. He left school at 14 and worked mainly as a labourer, spending 10 years in Canada, until he studied at Edinburgh as a mature student in the 1960s. With the publication of From the Wilderness in 1973, he emerged as a significant Scottish talent. Though he himself had moved away from these roots, much of his writing focused on the harsh realities of crofting in north-west Scotland, which lifestyle he viewed with a complete lack of sentiment.  Later works included Waking the Dead, and what is possibly his best known book, the autobiographical prose work, Night Falls on Ardnamurchan.

Frank O’Hara (1926–66): After service in the US Navy, and study at Harvard (as a beneficiary of the GI Bill), Frank O’Hara moved to New York in 1951, where he got a job working on the front desk at the Museum of Modern Art – the aesthetics of Abstract Expressionism would be a major influence in his poetry.  O’Hara published six collections in his lifetime, including the much-praised Meditations in an Emergency (1956), and as his voluminous (and not yet complete) posthumous publications reveal, he was a highly prolific poet.  In 1960, O’Hara was included in Donald Allen’s The New American Poetry as a member of the ‘New York School’. His often personal, frequently moving poems explored the rich and vibrant life of the city, in its many and various forms.

Ossian was a blind third-century Scottish bard who was supposed to have composed the sequence of epic poems ‘discovered’ and ‘translated’ by James MacPherson (1736–96), and published in Fingal (1762) and Temora (1763). The authenticity of these poems has been a controversial subject ever since – Samuel Johnson was one of the most vocal early sceptics. MacPherson never produced his ‘orginals’, but it is possible that his poems are ‘improved’ versions of fragments of oral poetry he had heard concerning Oisín (‘little deer’) and his father, the legendary hero Fionn mac Cumhaill, whose deeds are recounted in both mediaeval Irish and Scots Gaelic traditions. Despite the controversy, MacPherson’s Ossian poems have been a significant source of inspiration for writers, artists and musicians from the Romantic era to the present day.

Georg Trakl was born on February 3, 1887 in Salzburg. He began writing poetry at a very early age and  his book Der jüngste Tag was published in 1913. With the outbreak of war, he volunteered and served on the Eastern Front in the Galician town of Grodek as a medical officer, which led to him suffering a nervous breakdown. During his convalescence in the Krakow hospital, Trakl wrote his poems 'Grodek', 'Im Osten' and 'Klage' before committing suicide on November 3, 1914. He is considered one of the most extraordinary poets and most important exponents of Austrian Expressionism.

StAnza 2010 Events:

Thu 18 March | Past & Present
Matthew Sweeney on Georg Trakl and Colin Will on Gregory Corso
The Town Hall, Queens Gardens – Council Chamber

Fri 19 March | Past & Present
Dennis O’Driscoll on Alasdair Maclean, Kei Miller on Martin Carter
The Town Hall, Queens Gardens – Council Chamber

Sat 20 March | Past & Present
Alexander Stoddart on Ossian, Tony Ward on Ivor Cutler
The Town Hall, Queens Gardens – Council Chamber

Sun 21 March | Past & Present
Vicki Feaver on Jane Kenyon, Karen Solie on Frank O’Hara
The Town Hall, Queens Gardens – Council Chamber

Exhibitions, Films and Installations:

Wed 03 - Mon 29 March | Woman of the North Sea
Folio of verse & image collaborative works by George Bruce & John Bellany
The Byre Theatre, Abbey Street – Level 4 Gallery

Wed 17 - Sun 21 March | Poetry Cinema
Loop showing of films by Jonathan Blair; Steven McCabe; Renata Moio & Rossella Riccobono; tanzApartment (Huber&Christen and Mathias Traxler); Edward O'Donnelly & Kenny Munro and Simone Bitton & Elais Sanbar.
The Byre Theatre, Abbey Street – Conference Room

Thu 18 - Sat 20 March | A Stuggy Pren: Ivor Cutler
Ivor Cutler in photographs by Katrina Lithgow
Public Library, Church Square

All images are copyright © StAnza or individual named photographers. Please do not use without permission.