Saturday, 15 March 2008

Joy to the world

There will be lots of StAnza reports on blogs this week. So here's my version - plus a few other things.
Unlike lots of poets and poetry folk I have to say I always approach StAnza with mixed feelings. I have had good experiences there - for example I went to a great workshop with Matt Harvey 2 years ago (and I am not normally a workshop kind of a person). He was really encouraging and helped me a lot in terms of confidence (he was probably the first person involved in poetry to say 'you're good, you should do this'). However I've also had some dire StAnza moments too. I tried the Masterclass a few years back and hated it (it was with Jane Hirshfield - she was fine but some of the participants...aagghh!). Plus I've sat through a lot of (for my taste) overly poetic outpourings about nature and nature and, oh yes, more nature- oh the droning voices, oh the overdeveloped imagery, oh the polite audience...Last year I even tried the Slam as people kept telling me I'm a performance poet (which I don't think I am particularly...in fact I'm sure I've said at least a hundred times that I think the whole literary/performance split in poetry is a nonsense really....some of the supposedly great literary poets can perform well....some of the supposedly performance poets can be as literary as they come...if in a less 'look at the width of my phd' kind of a way). The Slam was OK, I didn't embarrass myself, but it let me know the Slamming thing is not for me...the hooter, the time limit, the juke box jury. Yuk.
Anyway...this year rather than a full weekend and a lot of family organising I just chose a couple of events on the Thursday. I got there early and tried to see the exhibition bits (hmm...so-so). I bumped into a few friendly faces, spent ages in Waterstones (we don't have big bookshops in Montrose), bought a Don Paterson book (I give in, he is a clever bastard...and funny...and miserable and oo, you are awful but I like you...), saw the poetry films on show in the Byre (fantastic - the Larkin one, the family values one...), ate lunch in quiet caff (just as well - no food at the lunchtime Studio Theatre show...again...). The lunchtime show itself was great though (food or no food) featuring Raman Mundair (from Shetland, via Northern England, via India). She was one of those poets that's so full of life it's a joy to behold. She sang (beautifully), she smiled like she knew how to do it, she had a great range of material (for me the highpoints were the very sad poem about racist killings in London and the very exciting poem about dance and life and everything). I felt we should all dance off down the stairs at the end...but of course we didn't. This is St Andrews, dear, walk nicely and bow to the royalty.
I went on to the Past & Present next - largely I have to admit because I wanted to see Adrian Mitchell but didn't fancy the Sunday night reading (lots of reasons...too many to detail). It was a great event. Tom Leonard was amusingly droll and bitter (and like Don Paterson's...older brother? Uncle?) and Adrian Mitchell was just...delightful (how English that sounds). He was talking about Blake but most of all he was talking about life and joy and happiness. Like the simply delicious Michael Morpurgo (who I also saw at StAnza a few years back) he made you want him as a Dad, or an Uncle or a Grandad...how nice it must be to have men like that in a family...men with hope! I never knew my Grandads or uncles (or Dad of course) so I think about these things. That may not be a literary poet's take on the event but you can read that stuff elsewhere...I'm always pleased to see good specimens of humankind and rejoice in their wondrousness!
So that was it for me. I went back off to the public transport system and family life, my mixings with the literary world over for another long while probably. I do like some writers but being around a lot of them for any length of time gives me a headache.
Other stuff this week - I read my probably best serious poem to date ('History at 40') at the folk club and it went...well, I think, also I got on with book-to-be stuff, put my 'Free love' on MySpace (lovely reactions) and watched a great drama on BBC2 called 'White Girl'. That story was about looking for joy and peace and stuff too. The main character was a 10 year old girl. Funny, StAnza makes me feel about that old. I wonder if I'll ever feel like a serious grown-up round serious grown-ups...

8 comments:

Andrew Philip said...

Thanks for the comment on my StAnza report, Rachel. I agree with you about the performance skills of some literary poets and the literary quality of some performance poets, I have to say. And I agree that Mitchell, even though I didn't like much of his Sunday night set, seems a lovely man. Sounds like the Past & Present session with him was a good one. I didn't get to any of that strand this year, but I heard good things about the Bunting event.

Rachel Fox said...

What was it you didn't like about the Sunday set?

Sorlil said...

listening to some of the readings made me think about how boring some of my own poems might sound if read aloud to an audience, something I'm now going to keep in mind when writing!

Andrew Philip said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Philip said...

Sorlil has almost said it for me, Rachel: I simply didn't find most of the poems interesting or arresting in any way. There were striking, memorable metaphors and moments here and there but not a huge sense of music, form or adventure in the language.

Does that make sense? I'm not sure I've expressed it terribly well.

Rachel Fox said...

It makes sense. I have not read much of his poetry but mean to try and read more (add that to a long list of things I mean to/will read...not sure how much time will be left for anything else...).
I had also thought of going to his children's event (using my little girl as cover -she loves anything to do with books...and I mean anything). I bet that was good but haven't read any reports.

Andrew Philip said...

It might well have been very good. Another thing that struck me was that several of the pieces he read seemed more like children's poems than adult ones. I certainly don't have anything against children's poems, but that's not what I go to adult readings for!

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, that's why I mentioned the children's event...why I ended up writing about Grandads in the blog...there was a real inspirational older relative feel to what he said (for me anyway). And I don't mean that in a patronising the old-folks way... there's a reason why grandparents and young children often get on so well (and I have both living with me)...sometimes they find the concerns of those of us stuck in middle age a real bore and wonder why we can't be more like them - more wide-eyed, less uptight, more straightforward somehow...