StAnza Poetry Festival 2021

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St Andrews
March 6th – 14th

StAnza Director: Eleanor Livingstone

The Stanza International Poetry Festival took place online from 6th to 14th March. Stanza was born in 1997, the brainchild of three poets deeply qualified in the field, Brian Johnstone, Anne Crowe and Gavin Bowd. Over the decades it has built up a standing as a leading place at the head of world poetry. Brian Johnstone, the poet and writer, is part of Edinburgh Shore Poets, with a particular interest in live poetry. Brian served as Festival Director from 2000-2010. Anne Crowe has many publications and prizes, and has translated into Castilian, Catalan, German and more, and Gavin Bowd teaches in St Andrews University. The first Stanza Festival launched on National Poetry Day in 1998, only a year after its conception.

This year, there wasn’t a single poet who did not strive and succeed in the field wither older or younger. having many honorary or volunteered for positions in the festival life itself. But the top seats had to go to the amazing Eleanor Livingstone who took us around as the Festival Director, Louise Robertson, on Press & Media and Annie Rutherford, Programme Co-ordinator.

Annie Rutherford

The pre-festival 5th March Panel discussion I found extremely interesting. I was captured by all the great styles of the written word. Taking off, with an expert discussion about the current goings on in the ‘European regions progress in literary culture’: an assessment of the progress culturally in considering brand new approaches. With an emphasis on understanding of the said European literary culture and regions, whether or not the writing is concerned enough with winning a battle of creating real roots outside the English dominant language. With the good news of their beginning to be or not of new infrastructures that are coming through with fresh lenses.

The Event ‘Trafica’, a radio initiative/European project talked very specifically about its identity and the giant world of creating serious funding that is met a little in the creating of inroads into how to qualify for funding. With Dostoevsky mentioned; the getting out of politics in poetry or at least in the intake of greater cultures, was dreamed of with the belief that poetry is of the Alchemy of the spirit and a gorgeous wish to move far away from being anything narrow minded. All coming with the initial supra courageous step of leaving your home country, finding its way to Stanza.

Concrete Poetry & Insta Poetry

My introduction to this came in a ‘Meet the artist’ event concerning the concept of concrete poetry and Insta poetry; The Insta was explored in Chris McCabe’s ‘For every day’ a poetry book with two poets in what is called a poem atlas, an idea of high mountains and frequent views both bad and good (to put it in simple terms). Bringing with it uncomfortableness and an openness which through the poetry went into the performances and readings.

Insta poetry is helping herald the quiet yet substantial revolution of poetry to the new and younger audiences. With its new forms of poetry, such as photo poetry. All made around the two fresh prospects of Concrete and Insta poetry. Giving the poets a chance to convey personal interests in the nature of concrete poetry measuring its effect upon itself with the natural components of words.

Political poetry then would have helped in the creating of a platform for forming options for the artist to reach their own outreaching platforms. They talked about the marvel that is online eventing calling it a dynamic in the world of Instagram critique. Astra Papachristodoulon asking us to travel beyond the book. Thinking instead about using her own brought objects to the table, a very wavy broadband of a subject. She also gave the example of using sculpture to make sense of her feelings, in particularly mixing sculpture with poetry. So, the highest abstracts were made possible in her very own art form.

The poet called Jinhao Xie spelled out more of how Instagram has brought a closeness to the audience and an interest in the poems themselves. But the aim was to use concise language and influence the critical gender performance, that leaves us with a chance of using simple graphics, with the all-important thing: humanity of others. His concrete poem where doors being closed, set to hatch his poem.

Found in Translation

From Found in translation (as to the popular lost in…) came a call to translators to show their form, their all-important co-working partner; interpretation. Tania Hershman, a poet and translator and Peter McKay communed online with Nicola Gevsky, who translates and interprets, and is into the fascinating, enthralling and necessity ways of the paving for us no less than as a world-wide phenomenon, which sounds like quite a thing, doesn’t it?

Nikola herself read from her poem written to be spoken of; an amazing people who nearly translate the world yet so humanly seek to make translating poetry into something directly close to fun. Saying that the instruments for writing do very well to entertain the senses of the human body all the way up to the mind as a meditation. We listened to the sound of rhymes as gold dust falling from the voices.

It seems that where there is an adopting of cultural context, there is room for expansion as in this case hailing from smaller countries. Translation takes place from the blood, sweat and tears of theirs and our revered poets who speak well in public. Though this is a thing that tends to differ per society (environment) and in their linguistics’ of the personal and the very public.

Backgrounds made the curtains of the theatre fall but it was always in pursuit of something fresh, lost and found is a good place to start. In the discussion on background of poems, there were translating challenges presented; to be handled by an enhancement in the learning about culture which is the passport to many things in the flight of this poetic world. It headed home to St Andrews with the translating from Gaelic of Peter’s piece, and Mitko Gogor’s into English. Putting the sharing of poetry at the forefront that merged for us into being very relaxed and finely in tune.

And in this relaxed manner George Colkitto (another wonderful name) who can understand full Welsh; again, portrayed another act of listening to the Welsh. He read these sounds like hymns of the human voice. Translating as a known and unknown quality where words and worlds still fall away. The ‘meet the artist’ events were always informative and super pleasant. And with the introduction of Peter MacKay who is among many other things a broad caster, lecturer, very much interested in translation of art and poetry into film. A question and answer, about the film poem just seen, was discussed with Ciara Ni E, a Berlin student with a deep and intense response to events.

Q & A on Found in Translation

Paul Maguire mentioned the occasion of choosing to speak in his own tongue, in the discussion and Pauls Scots, who speaks Gaelic Irish – wanted and does create the space for the handy opportunity to see the world through different lenses. And in the relationships between nations, whose translation into English has brought an external archive that was described as an ‘interesting process’ and with that the introduction of film, called a different animal ‘Urban fox’ an Irish sharing of cultures, stories, and a celebration of the ancient street scenes of Edinburgh ‘…fox eyes then her human eyes.’,

In translating from Welsh, words that didn’t fit into the interlocking of the process stood out, as the Welsh stands out as a language. Q. How much were you working from sound? Was a question that expounded the mediums and enhanced the subjectivity of the matter concerned.

Another Q. was. Is there too much emphasis of nationality in Ireland, Scotland and Wales? Which I felt was an electric question because it seems we would all like to know that one, a dynamic question for more wide spread thinking. Poetry has the ambition of representing entire cultures and in that world, they say that Irish and Scottish can very well be vice-versa in their substances. But there are feelings that Welsh is left to the side lines, mimicking perhaps a wider ignorance towards an anti-thesis that not all languages share the same usefulness as the mostly dominant Anglo English. In Wales there is a sense of a great lack of interest in the fineries of romantic culture as set aside by Rome

In the gaps in language, it is found that identity disappears. In for example closeness to masculinity undergoes misunderstandings, but in the spirit of determinism of subject there are important links succeeding between communities, snow balling since the big efforts for change affected in the 1970’s.

Online Organisation

Reaching remote communities is an exciting happening due to the internet’s reach, seeming to come to all of us here. It has among many other things created a different conversation online. The history side of things throw up great questions that probed into changes of attitude among nations. Where there is at the moment a longer process involved in Anglo Saxon world, because translation requires a wider questioning of translating older wisdom!

Maria Stepanova & Aileen Ballantyne, Two Poets

Maria Stepanova

‘Poets at home’ where we met Maria Stepanova & Aileen Ballantyne event was of the downs of which the poet and translator Sasha Dugdsale incurred. In the voice of the downs, adapted by the nature of the countryside she is so very close to. For her it was everything, and her radiance grew with every piece of her dramatic and informational poems. Information that included methods for well mental being. But her soft voice spread out to the water or fields in front of her, almost with freedom at hand. ‘The downs – ‘wide open…’, a huge affinity…,’ laying her shadow into the picture as her ‘eternal feminine’.

‘The last model’ – Francise Boutle (2020) – Latgalien poetry to showcase appeared last year, who having formed broad international contributions in a minority language had Jade Will, a compiler and translator, own work ‘The last Model’ – 2018, Published (Boubly publications) – In the translated from Latvian into English the poem her ‘…age of Christ…,’ The last days of the Soviet Union, belches of Soviet era. The power of poetry, the power of Russian poetry, is a power and blood shed of war.

Taking in Topics

The power of translating from Russian into English results in desperate and yet very strong words, coming from a shift in history, that is to be taken very personally. So, reading two, three, four poems fresh from the press started coming from the same place in literature but differing greatly in environment.

The subject of describing woman and defining woman, often led to some horrible histories both personal and societal (societal should be easier to change for the better). Offering first-hand accounts, of the sheer pain of war and destruction that happened in the native or visited countries and regions who all share the same map. Woman have never been dismaying into backing down the extremely withered sensation in a battle of the sexes.
Nature takes its place in the heart of the Stanza’s proceedings, and by the looks of it a learned poet can be as clear as a country river with its objects and musings all in the power of poetry that bends like nature to your will wherever it may suit you.

Where in any line there was loveliness and hope at any other time the words and ideals disrupted our gentle walk and took hold of us to the very collar. Also, though not so much imagined sorrow but very real and now, holding poetry to their hearts or casting them very far afield. Always returning to the magic that poetry seems to have a place for all of us.

The Foreign Language & Finance

Estonian poetry had a good presence, with the positive news that some things are as good as on the right track. To the esteemed concrete idea of being a poet who earns a living. From the Latvian situation comes a revealing of wide spread publishing. And it looks as though it differs because of a problem of language acting as a stopper, that this process is proving hard to understand. But the line out of it would be in making the poetic market a non-government organization, and the organization of friends to establish publishing, leaving off for a need of more future progress.

Another New Poet

The Stanza 2021 Poetry Centre Stage events had varied poets who have been internationally sought after was Russell’s readings that had his close adherence to poetry through science fiction, to throw open the field and the day. His images with poetry crossed genres and moved into a new way of sending a message through poetry. His writings and compilations all worked in pushing things to an extreme.

Stanza: Masterclass

The ‘My Favourite Poets’ time was spent in producing a masterclass. Where from dark words, the hero poet knee deep in failure, bitterness and then joy, was like a scene from some unmentionable tragedy reported through praiseworthy poetic Stance. As a woman wrapped in insignificance. Reminding us of the wide and well spread coverage for exemplary poetry and factual utterings.

Helen Boden, Suzanna V Evens and Jaqueline Saphra

Suzanne V Evans

As we were joined by Helen Boden, we took a virtual walk along Fife coastal path. For which she amounted her poems and photographs from Yorkshire. With extensive collaborations, responsive poems and creative non-fiction under her poetic belt. She was so soft and full of great endearment, passion and accomplishment. Photography or film merges very well with poetry and creates a view of sight and sound. She celebrated her land marks of sheer familiarity for her that included the poems celebration of a light house that see the high winds and seas.

Jaqueline Saphra

When Jaqueline Saphra joined Suzanna V Evens the experience heightened for me with the language she used in the forms of Form & evolution, in Suzanna’s terms it is something like or exactly like a palace of words. Or rather her term of the palace of poetry.

Her injection of this metaphoric place; the palace of poetry led us to understand her loud cry for this palace, as somewhere we could reach for or entre at will. She spoke of her wish to be inspired into claiming and taking over this palace which to me had a feeling of the epic poetry of old. To realise the struggle of the work of word. Leaving us with the epic quest of what it might be to create a formless poem?

Post the Palace of Poetry

Read aloud out from a Fatal interview of St Vincent Mallet who spoke; ‘in the winter stands the lonely tree…’ sparked a rich discussions with Eavan Doland’s whose point of view was both agreed with and disagreed with. About the art and against the silence. Of a combustion engine that belongs to everyone, she takes note of a Yeats poem called ‘leader of the swan’, which is a horrific poem about the indifference of men to the scene of rape! I feel sorry to mention that here but maybe my feelings should waver here. She took us through how poetry has been shaped in our earliest stanza of the more pure and innocent prayer and lullaby, which was remarkably built to be remembered(imagine that).

So, onto Stevie Smith whose black and white film was directed by his stringent found truths that are in sense and music, and how again they can be used as a back-up for poems, his subversive style revolutionised the sonnet (no small thing). And for Eavan Boland, Marlyn Nielson, Gwyndelin Brooks the embracing the sonnet is most powerful potential for poetry of its two-line sentencing and short hand but lyrical object.

Spurring back to Eavan Dolands in the sense of the staying of woman in the broad sense as love objects. With a longing for breaking down from her fiery motif of moving the wall of the palace, as if holding a sword to the air. And with a sad push comes the recognition that poetry ignores people, or at least that may be how it appears at large. Which was a frequent comment fit for discussion and holding to the poetic torch.

Entering a zoom discussion was always bubbly and filled with the joys, Though no less discursive. We talked about the limits created by the currant and older problems of isolation of the senses. Coupled with the opposite track of internet wide coverage for the poetic world to emerge into. There is a lot to be recognisable in for example the music and metre where ability to conduct poetry is to try everything right up and down the harbours of the mind.

A Suggested Unison & Inclusivity

In all the work of the poet’s poems there seemed to run an undercurrent of a spoken unison. And at this year’s online festival, it was very successful that is to say very absolute in the faces of many frustrations that are holding unhelpfully back the literature movements. Some of its drive was of poetry that is not being held with quite the esteem and potential as it could be in the arts that convey it.

The inclusivity of the festival was paramount to the weeklong presentation. And when in the inspire sessions, we were given some gifts of direct techniques and of tackling the prospect of making works yourself. Showing something for everyone from well-established poets who so magnanimously shared. Making the poetry mostly into a taking off leading us far in and out of ourselves just by the act of listening!

No poem had less than 2 lines of topic of subject; creating a wonderful addiction to the gentle reassurances that were often to exorcize a turn of listening to a person talking in a language I’m sorry to say I didn’t know. In the Q & A and in the discussions, post reading offered the time for these considered people to reveal their trade.

Centre Stage

On a Poetry Centre Stage event Mona Kareem, a featured writer met with Michael Grieve a Fife poet and teacher and who has been involved in Stanza before, offered a little correspondence through some poetry. In an endearing poem by Michael, his lines were about time and thinking and contemplating to look beyond his own words and performed as a living dedication to some sweet ideas for living in the planet.

The bitter hero set to last only for a small time, or to be disregarded anyway had the writing seeking for a purity of living that won’t be found in anything less than an honest one. Weaving around the straight English poetry was the translating effect from English to Another or another to English. The Gaelic language held a fore front as well as Russian.

The writing covered seemingly every aspect of life. Using far-fetched facts about frilly concepts that were splayed by the continuous almost threat of darker things to come or those that have already happened. To put Kareem back into the centre stage event found that his ever-growing process had fired off with the increased use of as many forms of poetry as he found was possible, putting his work right out there to be studied for years to come.

The poets, the staff, the volunteers shared a feeling of great togetherness when going through all kinds of poetic certainties and more importantly uncertainty.
Kareem’s poetry makes things easier, subscribing for that, poetry can save the world, hit us with her ‘Femme ghost’ project. Through which she in no uncertain terms reclaimed her right to be more than the degradation that man always makes of her. Writing lines that really do change the world by bringing them into focus.

Beginning the Conclusion

Not a point was missed in each event that was so discursive to an onlooker like me. So many things were mentioned and so many discussions witnessed the glee of what it takes to be colleagues in the field. With striking questions and well covered subjects.

Winsome Monica Minott, a poet and chartered artist, was a Jamaican born young and emerging poet. An award winning, freshly published seeker for human rights for her country of origin. Had with Zion Roses created an historical journey in the voice of the Caribbean. There was more seriousness and passion in them as to make it from the heart of their culture and sad history of perpetrated violence upon centuries.

Giving many stories of how these artists became interested in poetry in the first place and a lot of them found that it gave them an inner voice. Something that grew and grew in personal strength and also in the world of awards, publications and collaboration inherent in that world, using a fundamental tradition.

A Big Thank You

Poetry can lend its hand in navigating history into its specifics. And during which time it creates hybrid languages, in the shaping of it. It has over the years encountered singular great and sudden changes led by individual people concerned with the history of the voice. But the signs go up again reminding us of the potential for hampered growth, disconnection, and of things that seem like they should not be. There needs to be a departure from standard English into fresh language as the poetic voice itself would instruct us to go.

Kate Tough, Lisa Kelly, and Greg Thomas were grouped together in an interesting discussion about the fast subject of ‘Making it new’, where there was a sense of optimism. And there was more of challenging the norm, looking into an extended field of choice that can grab the world from the few to the many. As is with creative writing metaphors came thick and fast. Having experiments to confirm or deny any given thought or feeling. With the concrete poetry either distantly or confrontingly standing as an outstanding new field.

Daniel Donnelly


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