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...
2 hours ago