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StAnza International Poetry Festival

Events: StAnza 2014

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Our first theme for StAnza 2014 anticipated the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July 2014. For the year of Homecoming Scotland we were delighted to feature poets from India, South Africa, Botswana, Jamaica, Canada and many more member states with whom we share A Common Wealth of Poetry. And with the Games in prospect, we did our best to keep poetry in motion with various exhibitions and installations. To kick off, this year’s opening evening event, Rime, was a spectacular modern dance and acrobatics performance, a re-telling of that favourite classic, Coleridge’s  ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, in a stunningly new medium. Before the acrobatics started, the celebrated novelist, Louis de Bernières, launched this 17th annual festival. In 2004 he came to St Andrews to talk about his love of poetry, and a decade later in 2014 he returned with his own debut collection of poetry.

Words Under Fire was our second theme for 2014. To mark the centenary of the start of the First World War, we programmed a series of events which recognised the legacy of poetry from that war which continues to engage with successive new generations of readers. Expanding on this, we also looked at how poets have responded to wars before and after 1914-18. Our Past & Present sessions focused on war poets. Some of those taking part in the festival have first-hand experience of war, others have written poetry which views the field of battle through others’ eyes. We were delighted to show a special edit for StAnza of Stephen Raw’s exhibition ‘Was it for this the clay grew tall’, inspired by Wilfred Owen’s poems. And if today Owen is the best known WW1 poet who wrote in English, French and German poets writing at the same time featured elsewhere in the festival, including in the StAnza 2014 lecture, ‘The Great War at Home and Abroad’, delivered by acclaimed poet and translator, David Constantine.

In response to the continuing popularity of our extended workshops, we added a third in 2014, with two all-day Balmungo Workshops on Tuesday 4th and Wednesday 5th March, led by Jacob Polley and Vicki Fever respectively, and also a further Wednesday workshop from noon to 4.30pm at MUSA in St Andrews led by Jenny Lewis, ‘Voicing the Past: their wars, your words’, which launched our Words Under Fire Theme.

We were delighted to feature as headline poets the UK’s Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, making a very welcome return after five years, and Paul Muldoon in his very first appearance at StAnza. Other headliners included John Burnside, Brian Turner, Tishani Doshi, Sujata Bhatt and Menna Elfyn, and Carol Ann performing with her regular stage partner, musician John Sampson. Also taking part were poets from the Netherlands, Croatia, the US, and from Scotland and across the UK, as well as visual artists, musicians, actors, film-makers and other writers.

Performance events included a concert of Charles Causley’s poems set to music by a distant relative, Jim Causley; a presentation from Dundee’s JOOT Theatre Company; and the StAnza Slam hosted by Edinburgh’s famous slamming duo, Rally & Broad. Other special events included our first Round Table discussion on ‘Post-Everything Poetics’ from Ron Silliman, long associated with the Language poetry movement in the US, plus acclaimed spoken word shows from a range of talented performers. As ever, as part of the diversity of StAnza, there was plenty of lighter entertainment on the programme as well, with cabaret performances every lunchtime from leading performers such as Ross Sutherland, just part of our Poetry Café strand. We were grateful to Fife Council for use of the Byre Theatre, which was closed at the time, as our hub and for various events.

With Poetry Breakfast panel events over coffee and pastries to late night poetry and music events in the festival hub, along with a plethora of workshops, exhibitions, talks and cross-media performances, a Masterclass with Paul Muldoon and open mic events, StAnza 2014 was the festival which only stopped for poetry.

Eleanor Livingstone, Director

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