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StAnza International Poetry Festival

Participants: Past Poets

 Past PoetsWalt Whitman

Charles Baudelaire (1821–67) can lay claim to being one of the very first ‘modern’ poets (he is even said to have coined the term modernit้, as an expression of the experience of urban life). An essayist, art critic and translator of Edgar Allen Poe’s stories, Baudelaire is best known today for his 1857 collection Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil) – a book whose supposedly ‘unwholesome’ subject matter caused six of the poems to be suppressed until 1949. A highly original poet in his use of form, music and symbolism, Baudelaire’s influence can be traced in the work of many French poets of the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The American poet and professor John Berryman (1914–72) was born John Allyn Smith, Jr (Berryman was his stepfather’s surname). After various short term posts, he joined the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis in 1955, and would remain there for the rest of his life. Berryman’s most famous work is The Dream Songs (1969), a deeply personal collection of poems which gathers together his 1964 collection, 77 Dream Songs, winner of a Pulitzer Prize, and the follow-up volume, His Toy, His Dream, His Rest (1968), which won the National Book Award for Poetry and the Bollingen Prize.

John Donne (1672–1631) had a varied career, in which he began as a Catholic law student, lost his faith and went travelling (during which time he took part in Essex’s and Ralegh’s raids on Cadiz and the Azores), served as an MP, became an Anglican priest, and went on to be Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral. His writings were equally varied, and include sonnets, epigrams, elegies, songs, satires, devotions and sermons. Dryden would later classify Donne as one of the ‘metaphysical poets’ – a reference to his inventive use of unusual conceits, and the exploration of love and religion in his poetry.

William Drummond of Hawthornden (1585–1649) was a Scottish poet, pamphleteer and book collector. Following his father’s death in 1610, he abandoned his studies in law and returned home as the laird of Hawthornden, where he wrote, learned French, Italian and Spanish, and greatly expanded his library, which by his death consisted of around 1,500 titles, many of which were books by his literary contemporaries. Known especially for his sonnets, which has led to some calling him “the Scottish Petrarch”, Drummond was a friend and regular correspondent with the English Poet Michael Drayton. Ben Jonson visited Hawthornden for three weeks in 1618–19, an event recorded in Drummond’s Conversations (first published 1842).

William Dunbar (1459/60–1520) first appears aged around 14 when he registers as a student at St Andrews in 1474 (he went on to gain a BA in 1477 and an MA in 1479). From 1500 he was employed at the court of King James IV as a “servitour”, a position he held until the king’s death at Flodden in 1513. Widely considered to be one of the most significant of the Scots Makars, his poems include the allegories The Goldyn Targe and The Thrissill and the Rois, Lament for the Makaris (the only source for the names of some earlier Scots poets), and The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy.

Walter Kennedy (c. 1455–1518?) was born in a Gaelic speaking part of South Ayrshire and studied at the University of Glasgow. One of the Makars associated with the court of James IV, he is now best known for his part in The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy. His other works include the long narrative poem, The Passioun of Crist. He also has a connection with the the University of St Andrews: his uncle, Bishop James Kennedy, founded St Salvator’s College in 1450.

The poet, essayist and republican John Milton (1608–74) was born in London, and educated at St. Paul's School and at Christ's College, Cambridge. He served in Cromwell’s government during the Commonwealth, but lost his sight in 1651. After the Restoration, although arrested and imprisoned for a time, he was allowed to ‘retire’ to the countryside. His works include the masque Comus (1634), the pastoral elegy Lycidas (1638), the anti-censorship pamphlet Areopagitica (1644), the epic poem Paradise Lost (1667) – one of the major works of English poetry – its sequel Paradise Regained (1671), and the tragedy Samson Agonistes (1671).

Lynette Roberts (1909–95) was born in Argentina to Welsh parents. She came to London to study at the Central School for Arts and Crafts, and in 1939 moved to Carmarthenshire. Her first collection, Poems, published by Faber and Faber in 1944, is a landmark text in Welsh modernist poetry and writing about the Second World War. Village Dialect: An Introduction to Village Dialect with Seven Stories also appeared in 1944, and she published one further book with Faber and Faber, Gods with Stainless Ears: A Heroic Poem (1951), plus the prose work, The Endeavour: Captain Cook’s first voyage to Australia (1954), before she stopped writing and publishing in the mid-1950s.

Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832) was born in Edinburgh, and is perhaps best known today for the collection of ‘Waverley’ novels he published from 1814–29 (he only admitted to being their author in 1827). However, he had earlier found fame as a folklorist with his three volume The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802–3), and as a poet with such works as Marmion (1808) and The Lady of the Lake (1810). Scott also organised the events surrounding the visit of George IV to Scotland in 1822, the cultural legacy of which is still felt in Scotland, and wider afield, to this date.

Wisława Szymborska (1923–2012) lived and worked for most of her life in the city of Kraków. She published her first collection Dlatego źyjemy in 1952 (having been refused permission to publish an earlier book in 1949), and a further nineteen volumes followed, culminating in her final collection, Tutaj, in 2009. Her poem ‘Love At First Sight’ was a major influence for Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors: Red (1994). Szymborska’s work has been widely translated, and her many international awards included the Goethe Prize (1991) and the Nobel Prize for Literature (1996). In 2011 she received the Order of the White Eagle, Poland’s highest official decoration.

Dylan Thomas (1914–53) was born in Swansea and is widely considered to be one of the most significant Welsh poets of the twentieth century. Thomas published six collections of poetry in his brief lifetime, including The Map of Love (1939) and Deaths and Entrances (1943), and a number of his poems, such as ‘Fern Hill’ and ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’, have been widely anthologised. His other writings include the short story collection, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog (1940), and the posthumously broadcast radio play Under Milk Wood (1954).

Marina Tsvetaeva (1892–1941) was one of the leading Russian poets of the twentieth century, widely admired for the passion, daring and experimentalism of her lyric poetry, as well as her use of folk tales and her moving accounts of the experiences of women during the “terrible years” following the 1917 revolution. An opponent of the revolution, her husband Sergei Efron fought with the anti-Bolshevik “White Russians” during the Civil War, Tsvetaeva was trapped in Moscow until 1922, when she managed to leave for Berlin (where she was reunited with Efron). After a spell in Prague, they moved to Paris in 1924. Tsvetaeva remained there until 1939, when she made the fatal decision to return to the Soviet Union.

César Vallejo (1892–1938) was born in the town of Santiago de Chuco in the Peruvian Andes, where he lived and worked (aside from the several years he spent in Trujillo and Lima) until he left for Europe in 1923. Vallejo’s two poetry collections, Los heraldos negros (1918) and Trilce (1922), are recognised as major contributions to Latin American modernism. His later poetry, published posthumously, reflects the political radicalism Vallejo picked up first in Paris in the 1920s, and then during his visits to the Soviet Union in the 1930s and as an active supporter of the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War.

Walt Whitman (1819–92) is widely considered to be one of America’s most important nineteenth century poets. His major work was Leaves of Grass, a celebration of democracy, nature, love, and friendship, which he first published in 1855 and then continued to revise and expand throughout his life (new editions, each one containing new poems, appeared in 1856, 1860, 1867, 1871, 1876, 1881–2, 1889 and 1891–2). Described by Thoreau in 1855 as “the greatest democrat the world has ever seen”, Whitman’s rejection of conventional metre and rhyme, and his openness about subjects such as sex and sexuality, went on to influence numerous twentieth-century poets, both in America and further afield.

StAnza 2013 Events:

Thu 07 March | Past & Present
David Evans on Baudelaire, Chris Stone on Donne and Milton
The Town Hall, Queens Gardens – Council Chamber

Fri 08 March | The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy
Robert Crawford and Don Paterson and ‘The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy’
The Town Hall, Queens Gardens – Council Chamber

Fri 08 March | Past & Present
Mark Doty on Walt Whitman, Christopher Whyte (Crìsdean MacIlleBhàin) on Marina Tsvetaeva
The Town Hall, Queens Gardens – Council Chamber

Sat 09 March | Past & Present
Erํn Moure on César Vallejo, Robert Minhinnick on Dylan Thomas
The Town Hall, Queens Gardens – Council Chamber

Sat 09 March | Past & Present
Zo๋ Skoulding on Lynette Roberts, Alvin Pang on Wisława Szymborska
The Town Hall, Queens Gardens – Council Chamber

Sat 09 March | In Conversation
Andrew Greig talks to Catherine Lockerbie
The Town Hall, Queens Gardens – Auditorium

Sun 10 March | Past & Present
Ken Babstock on John Berryman, Martin Dimery on William Drummond
The Town Hall, Queens Gardens – Council Chamber

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