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StAnza International Poetry Festival

Distant Voices

a one-day Virtual Poetry Festival - 14.11.09


Click thumbnails to see the galleries

Photo Gallery I
Distant Voices 2009 Gallery I

12.45 - 5.00 pm, GMT
St Andrews, Tbilisi, Geneva, Stavanger, London

Photo Gallery II
Distant Voices 2009 Gallery II

5.50 - 7.40 pm, GMT
Vicenza, Skye, New York

Photo Gallery III
Distant Voices 2009 Gallery III

8.10 - 10.00 pm, GMT
Amsterdam, Ghent, Sacramento

On Saturday 14 November 2009, poets and poetry enthusiasts from around the world converged on St Andrews - without having to leave their own countries.  The miracle was performed thanks to digital technology and was the focus of Distant Voices, a virtual one day extravaganza organised by StAnza: Scotland’s International Poetry Festival.

Those who gathered on the day at the Byre Theatre, St Andrews were treated to 12 events, one live from St Andrews, 11 brought to them via Skype from venues scattered across the world: Tbilisi, Geneva, Stavanger, London, Mumbai, Vicenza, Skye, New York, Amsterdam, Ghent and Sacramento. The events were also webcast via internet portals reaching an audience in many countries worldwide, with people watching from home in ones and twos but also in groups at public venues which streamed the event.

The idea for Distant Voices came about during StAnza’s festival in March 2009 when an Amsterdam based poet found at the last minute that he was unable to come to St Andrews. He was due to take part in a specially commissioned poetry play, but thanks to some quick thinking, he made a virtual appearance via Skype instead.  From this came the idea for Distant Voices, arguably the most ambitious digital event of its kind. Partner organisations and individuals gave generous commitment to the project, bringing in satellite venues as diverse as the Poetry Society headquarters in London, a theatre in Mumbai, a hotel in New York, an arts centre in Stavanger, a university in Skye, a bookshop in Sacramento, a studio in Vicenza ….

On the day there were some initial glitches, but those were overcome and hours of poetry from Mumbai to Sacramento were webcast to the world, St Andrews at the hub.

People attending, either in person or online, and others taking part responsed to the event with great enthusiasm and encouragement, commenting on the amazing range and variety of poetry and voices from around the world. This free webcast enabled access to poetry on a grand scale, and we hope that Distant Voices will be succeeded by many more such digital poetry projects.

‘It was like listening to the nerve endings of the poetry world being wired and bound together.  And the tiny screen shimmered with the faces of poets.’ 
Mark O. Goodwin, Skye

‘We may be scattered in small numbers, we poetry lovers, gathered around fires instead of arenas, but connecting the dots across the globe, we make a dazzling constellation.’
Alice White, New York

‘AWESOME. Well done, StAnza-folk!’ 
@aikowrites via Twitter

‘… it really did work’
Woest en Ledig (Dutch Blog)


For press enquiries about the StAnza virtual poetry festival 'Distant Voices', contact

Programme for Saturday 14 November 2009
For information on each event, please click the links below:

1.00 pm: St Andrews for event launch

Distant Voices is launched by StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival at The Byre Theatre, St Andrews.


1.10 pm - 1.40: Tbilisi

From Tbilisi David Robakidze, (publications include What is a Man, and Once at the Zoo), Amiran Svimonishvili and Gaga Naxutsrishvili whose latest book is "Gogo da Evropa" (The Girl and Europe) with cover art work by Mixo Kochakidze.

Poems in Georgian (NB Some English translations below)

Distant Voices - Tbilisi   Distant Voices - Tbilisi

Distant Voices - Tbilisi

Poems by David Robakidze (translations by Anna Grigalashvili):


When I met my girl-friend she already had with her:
her child – as she had been married before,
a scar under her knickers,
a mascara poppy with a leaf, a romantic poison –
with a famous bottle, sadness which she
had picked from the cafés while sitting there
with her ex-boyfriends
and chain of  hotels haunting her day and night.
I was writing down the stories that shocked me
while as having read the others I was throwing them away.

So we have brought the child up: he’s already a man.
He has a lot of CD-s and he never listens to anybody.
He knows so well that bones can breathe.
He laughs at years greeting him.
After work he always goes his second home,
he takes his father /he’s one of his mother’s husbands/ by taxi
to his parents who are called Mr. Gikha and Mrs. Ria and
who are on the photo.
He loves his wife as much as his mother though she plays the floor
and sometimes weighs every word and – as she said offshore –
she respects her father-in-law and that’s why she always lays the table
and sets the fireplace when he comes.

Sometimes I get fresh air into my house gardens.
Sometimes I play with my grandchildren and put them to bed.
Sometimes I forget my sadness and look after fruit.
My girlfriend has no more heavy thoughts and headache.
I threw the romantic poison away.
Now I’m thinking about my guests - Mr. Morning and Mrs. Night:
they seem to be late - as usual.

* * *

The trees which are necessary for life are given
electricity each season.
While as the ordinary trees are waiting for
spring and water rising in rivers.
In spring their buds will light up and stay like that until
somebody will come and pick the ripened fruit.

* * *

 You’re a cart pulled by two oxen –
 a heart ox and a brain ox.
 A voiceless man makes you carry loads.
 And you’re going to be wise…
 after the event.



   A man is:
when you model a money-box of clay giving it a shape of a man
and making a slot where a rib should be.
 A man is:
when you model a money-box of clay giving it a shape of a man
and when you take it to sell at the market.
 A man is:
when you model a money-box of clay shaping it into a man
and make children carried by parents turn their heads and have a look at it.
 A man is:
when you model a money-box of clay giving it a shape of a man
and bring it hardly wrapped back home not having managed to sell it.
 A man is:
when you model a money-box of clay giving it a shape of a man
and leave it to your children so that they should break it at the waistline until
coins reach the throat.
 A man is:
when you model a money-box of clay giving it a shape of a man
and never manage to explain how you have done that.


In the waters of the Pacific
among a lot of fishing boats
among a lot of lion hunting boats
with seals and white bears around
there is a Central Asian water-melon
floating with its navel and cutting
under the water.
From time to time the water-melon looks up as it is
so much disturbed by annoying inhabitants of the ocean
which try to get into its lit navel
because it’s waiting for two hands with all its rind and stones,
with all its shape – it’s waiting for them coming from the sky
which is beautiful and shorn like a lamb. It’s waiting for them
as much as days put into a cardboard box like eggs are waiting
for Christmas.


And it happened so that an empty bus at the bus stop had a dream.
It dreamt of all the light thoughts it had been driving during the day.
It dreamt that it had faced the death and then an oculist.
It dreamt of passengers waiting for other destinations.
It dreamt as if it seemed that children were waving to it
and it damned its being one-storeyed.
It dreamt of a ticket-box and ringing that made it shiver in the emptiness.
It dreamt that there were no more bounds of the conscience and
that it didn’t care any more neither for the icons stuck to it
nor for a hanging triangle with a ball and without any smell.
It dreamt of an old man always ready to talk - like a guide.
It dreamt of somebody having no ticket and looking into the open hatch all the way.
It dreamt that it wiped its forehead - moist with the Chinese alphabet -
with its eyebrows attached to its temples.
It dreamt that the driver came and woke it up with an old key which
had lost its shining.

Distant Voices - Tbilisi
Design by Giorgi Gamezardashvili


Poems by Gaga Nakhutsrishvili (Translations By Nino Dzotsenidze)


I am Napoleon

I am Napoleon!..
Kill me, or I will conquer the world,
I long for pubs and I’ve made a thief
The General of my army,
And the Death begged me: Let’s share the feelings,
Kill me, or I’ll conquer the world!

I am Napoleon!..
The noise of the world is getting in my way,
I don’t trust please, or supplication or tears,
I don’t believe in tragedies and deceitful failures,
The hungry tramp will never retreat,
I have bestowed the tramp a royal mien.

I am Napoleon!..
Winds and rains are ridiculous,
Let’s wave good-bye to the romanticism
And stand by me with faded roses,
While even the color has become ridiculous,
Let’s say good-bye, as well, to Love.

I am Napoleon,
A tramp or the Emperor!..
Have you come to me? What would you like, sir?
And since you are here, you are either crazy or a poet,
The battle has started, you know, it’s evening
But fight anyway, trust the Emperor

I am Napoleon!..
The world is trembling and I’m feeling the end,
Don’t be misled, I am not at all thirsty for blood,.
I don’t want to drown the dream in doubts
And I know the fear and jealousy of Glory.
I just crave for being killed by the world.

I am Napoleon!..
When I conquered the part of the world,
And when I tasted the genuine tears,
When I was lost in the chaos of tears
And when I was terribly exhausted with crying,
I didn’t want to ruin my dream with doubts.

I am Napoleon!..
Even Death is not beautiful in this world,
Tolstoy is wrong, I am dying the way the
thousands do,
I am the Emperor and yet the clown!
It is difficult to fight back the dream, the idea.
And the winter has come as chameleon.

I am Napoleon!..
The winter will change songs and colors,
Have I lost? I don’t believe it and I feel I’m cursed
I am already defeated by the deceitful winter
And somewhere register is being filled so stupidly.
And I am the victim of colors, and chameleon,
Go away, to hell Napoleon!
Adam’s genius is nothing but a shame
Draw the curtains, curtains, please, I’m ashamed
I am Napoleon...


Elegy of the Usual Day

I am already grown up and I don’t believe in tears,
The feebly colorful novel has come to its end.
Some idler has written it, I fear,
Not knowing the life is just white and black.

I have already returned to my cosy flat,
I am annoyed with people and the pose,
I don’t, wish to go out in rain with hope,
I don’t wish to live with childish goal.

I have not lived in the dirt, as a pig,
Now I think so and the sky is clear,
The day is ordinary, I call it usual,
And those, whom I loved, are not any more here.

I am already grown up and I don’t believe in tears,
The feebly colorful novel has come to its end.
Some idler has written it, I fear,
Not knowing the life is just white and black.


Strange Winter

It’s strange,
Your winter is passing so quietly,
Someone is yawing by the Bible – the strange book;
It’s strange,
When you are at the end of your life,
Towards the beginning again you look.

It’s strange,
Even the storm has the end
And you never know the hope’s real name.

It’s strange,
Your winter is passing so,
You have not even felt the pureness of snow.


Wintry Fun

Even if no one concealed the sins,
You would still use your wintry fan,
And say: Loose the belief and paradise,
Let us just live and wonder at life.

Even if there were no passions or dramas,
We would still stay out in rainy night,
We would still smell the wetness of air,
We would still face the death and the life.

Even if there were no tales or parables
Still there would appear a senseless fable,
Someone would still be marrying the princess
And would decorate the space with colorful threads.

Even if there were no winters or cold,
We would still get drunk with the whiteness of snow,
And we would still live to be very old,
And the dumb grave will sing to us its death songs.

Even if no one concealed the sins,
You would still use your wintry fan,
And for some reason, would feel too lonely
And would choose death than to be lone



Humidity of the nights is chasing me,
Don’t tell me you are looking for Hamlet,
That you still believe in truth
And the dream still exists.
Humidity is burning through the night,
He could have been a knight or a prince,
He could have resembled God himself
If he existed or did not, perhaps.
Fresh ideals will fade away,
You will see people laughing at your death.
Finding an answer, saying: how crazy he was!
And the life still continues with fear.
Why are you fighting yourself?
If doubt is sure to win,
If people are cowards
And even the woman crying for you
Is not sincere.
When reality looses its colours
Continuation is quite clear,
There is no need in conscience
Any more I fear.
The planet has worn out its lap
He did not exist or he did, perhaps. 


1.50 pm - 2.20: Geneva

Strictly Sound / Language on Parole


Heike Fiedler;
Peter McCarey
Alexa Montani
Colette Ruch
Günther Ruch
Marina Salzmann

Distant Voices - Geneva
Vincent Barras, Jean Calvin, Jacques Demierre, Ferdinand de Saussure & Steven Spellborg.

Recommended viewing :
Voicing Through Saussure : A film by Véronique Goël


2.30 pm - 3.00: St Andrews

Live from The Byre Theatre, St Andrews, StAnza presents Andrew Philip, whose new book The Ambulance Box (Salt, 2009) has been shortlisted for the Aldeburgh Jerwood Prize for a first collection, plus surprise guests.


3.10 - 3.40: Stavanger

The Stavanger reading will take place at Sølvberget, Stavanger kulturhus, in association with Norsk Forfattersentrum – Norwegian Writers’ Center, and ICORN - International Cities of Refuge Network. We are proud to present and share with the world the following poets: Helge Torvund, Easterine Iralu, Ren Powell, Mansur Rajih.  Poems in various languages with some English translations.

Distant Voices - Stavanger     Distant Voices - Stavanger

Distant Voices - Stavanger



3.50 pm - 4.20: London

The London reading takes place at the Poetry Society in London, presented by poet and MC Joelle Taylor. This year’s SLAMbassadors championship, jointly run between BBC Blast and the Poetry Society, has rounded up the seven best Slam performers from across Britain who will perform, slam and rap on the theme of identity. The seven teenage performers will be mentored by Joelle Taylor and Benjamin Zephaniah. The slammers will perform as part of the virtual StAnza Festival and at the live Showcase on November 15 with Zephaniah and Taylor, and with Scroobius Pip!

Distant Voices - London     Distant Voices - London

Distant Voices - London


4.30 pm - 5.00: Mumbai

Mumbai’s edition of ‘Distant Voices’ will unfold on the first floor of Prithvi House, Prithvi Theatre, Juhu. The PEN All-India Centre will present the evening as a PEN@Prithvi Special, a bonus attraction to our regular monthly session at this very venue. Our longstanding partner, Prithvi Theatre – an organization committed to the growth not just of theatre, but all the related arts – is, as always, a generous and welcoming host in a city where space is at a premium! The seven poets who will read their poetry, beginning at ten minutes to ten, Indian Standard Time (4.20 GMT) are Arjun Bali, Sampurna Chattarji, Mustansir Dalvi, Rohinton Daruwala, Ranjit Hoskote, Malavika Sangghvi and Arundhathi Subramaniam.


5.50 pm - 6.20: Vicenza

The event from Vicenza will take place at Aureofficina 11 in collaboration with Valentine's International Culture Club. There will be readings in Italian and English from Marco Fazzini, Stefano Strazzabosco, Douglas Dunn and StAnza’s Brian Johnstone, who will be launching his book “Terra Incognita” published by L’Officina and translated into Italian by Roberta Cimarosti, Armado Pajalich and Marco Fazzini with original etchings by Giovanni Turria. Douglas Dunn will read from Whisper to the Muse: 84 poems in English and Italian, edited and translated by Marco Fazzini (Officina Arte Contemporanea, 2009).


6.30 pm - 7.00: Skye

The Isle of Skye reading takes place at the Scottish Gaelic college Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and with poems in Gaelic and English from Meg Bateman, Myles Campbell, Mark Goodwin and college Writer-in-Residence Rody Gorman. 


7.10 pm - 7.40: New York

New York City’s contribution to Distant Voices will take place at the Roger Smith, a hotel and arts organisation in midtown Manhattan (home of the groundbreaking Lab Gallery for installation and performance art).  In the Solarium on the hotel’s 16th floor, a poets’ luncheon with 40 invited guests will set the stage for readings by two acclaimed young writers: New York poet Caitlin Doyle, featured in Best New Poets 2009, edited by Kim Addonizio; and South African poet/journalist Henk Rossouw, 2009 winner of Poetry Society of America’s “Bright Lights, Big Verse: Poems of Times Square” competition.  The luncheon has been scheduled to coincide with dinnertime in Scotland so the guests can raise a glass to everyone at the Byre before the interval, and send a breathing postcard from the poets of New York.

Distant Voices - New York


8.10 pm - 8.40: Amsterdam

The Amsterdam Five –  Maria van Daalen, Tsead Bruinja, Astrid van Baalen, Elmar Kuiper & Cralan Kelder will perform in English as a special adaptation to the demands of this event. You can learn about their numerous books / translations / St. Andrews appearances / & websites on the internet. If you would like to join them at location in Amsterdam for the evening you are very welcome. For details send an email to mail [@]


8.50 pm - 9.20: Ghent

From Ghent, Krikri deliver polypoetry piping hot to your living room, with Maja Jantar, Jelle Meander and Helen White. Krikri’s aim is to highlight contemporary poetic activity in a way that is relevant to the 21st century stage. They organise a series of international festivals and also a range of different performances, projects and workshops.


9.30 pm - 10.00: Sacramento

The Sacramento reading takes place in The Book Collector, a bookstore in the midtown district of California's Capitol. This reading is presented by Richard and Rachel Hansen in association with Poems-For-All and the Poet Laureate Project of Sacramento’s Metropolitan Arts Commission. The reading will feature Bob Stanley (Sacramento's current poet laureate), Rebecca Morrison, and Indigo Moor.

Distant Voices - Sacramento


10.00 pm - 11.30: Live music and open mic

The webcast will end at 10 pm but if you are in St Andrews, do join us in the Byre café bar for some music and a poetry open mic to finish the day.


Scottish Arts Council Event Scotland Fife Events University of St Andrews
Scottish Arts CouncilPagan Osborne
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