Thursday, April 3, 2014

StAnza - Scotland's International Poetry Festival

And if you should go back /to stand out there alone /salt soaked to the bone
 call me then: don’t speak,/just let my tongue taste salt/when I lick the phone.
                                                                                     - Harbour, Eleanor Livingstone



I am back where there is sun and sand, and then more of the same. I miss the sea, I dreamt of it last night and tipped into wakefulness with the memory of salt sitting on my tongue and the taste of laughter not too far behind.  Its exactly this kind of fanciful nonsense that led to me thinking I could wander the world talking, if not for a living, as a way of living. A couple of weeks ago I was in Scotland at the invitation of festival director Eleanor Livingstone to read for and speak to a hundred or so teenagers in Dundee, do a couple of BBC interviews as well as give a 40 minute reading as part of the festival's Saturday night double bill alongside UK Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy. How chuffed was I at that news? Some victory dances should forever remain between a girl and the books giving their back to her on a shelf that needs replacing.

Its quite difficult to separate, and why should you, the festival from its home or the people that live there because they come, they do for the readings and to sit and chat with poets who've come from near and far. My reading had the dangling carrot of the wonderfully talented and highly accessible Ms Duffy so by the time I got to Scotland it was almost sold out and by Saturday night a separate room with projection had been arranged to accommodate the spill over for our reading. A wonderful thought really, the idea of TOO many people wanting to listen to poetry. And f StAnza were a ship the support staff are its keel. I believe they are primarily if not exclusively local and they get your sound and lighting right and remember when you when you sneak in ten minutes before a reading looking for a complimentary ticket because 1) its a courtesy the festival extends to participating poets and 2) you left your name tag and wallet in your room (you hope).

St Andrews is small enough to fit my idea of being away without feeling like a million people are casting a shadow over my heart (large cities for all their peopledness can make it quite cumbersome for me to identify and find the people I want to keep company with). I've read lots of wonderful StAnza related blogs from all sorts of point of view and I wasn't really going to blog about the experience because I don't believe in retelling dodgily - because grammar, commas especially - what has been well told once, but because I never listen to anyone least of all myself here I am three paragraphs in.

Because I had my camera with me and it often proves to be a better storyteller, or at least a much more reliable narrator, than I I shall let it do most of the talking

X number of feet above Scotland's periphery  

If you are looking for high thread count sheets and a round of golf then the Fairmont St Andrews, who kindly sponsored my brief stay with them, are a good bet

I always miss the sun when I'm away from home then when I get back I complain its too bright and too hot so…clearly theres no pleasing some people

St Andrews is pretty much a 3 street town very imaginatively called wait for it ...South Street, North Street and Market Street. True story :-) but honestly I love not having to TomTom or Google my way anywhere especially after a late night out

Post a reading in a cavey little nook just off South Street. I love empty churches and this space felt a bit like that. I love that the festival makes use of spaces outside the theatre to take poetry to the people - cafes, the town council etc

This poor gentleman, who was literally carving words into stone just outside the theatre, had to stop what he was he was doing because I was asking a ton of questions about his stone and his hands and time and the cold weather 

On my way to the beach I met history he was old and crumbly but you could tell from his bones that he must have been a handsome lad in his day...still is in many ways


The Byre Theatre which is a magnificent space which I hope finds some perpetual endowment that'll keep it open more often that it is now. Amazing staff who came back to oversee the technical bits of the festival, despite having been out of a/their former job/s since the Byre stopped opening daily

Spent some time with Tishani Doshi (to my right), Rob Mackenzie(to her right), Tomica Basjic (to my left), Suzanne Steele and Gabeba Baderoon at the Byre. This photo courtesy of Suzanne Steele's camera :-)


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