StAnza may be based in Fife but it takes poetry to every corner, and island, of Scotland, writes Louise Robertson
StAnza, Scotland’s international poetry festival, officially came of age this year.
The annual festival, which takes place in Fife every March, marked its 18th year with an event worthy of such a milestone. Everyone who took part in the festival – from the many visitors who travelled from as far afield as Canada, New Zealand, countless European countries as well as many from closer to home, to the festival participants from Jamaica, the Faroe Islands, Sardinia, Mallorca and Denmark to name but a few, and the StAnza team – partied through the 18th year of the festival in style.
The opening night was just one case in point, with audience members mingling – and indeed dancing – with Dylan Thomas and ee cummings on the stage of the Byre Theatre. Over the following four days, more than a hundred poets, artists and musicians filled the streets and stages of St Andrews. From intimate readings in the Fraser Gallery via a lyrical journey with Ryan van Winkle and Dan Gorman in the confines of the Byre’s Box to poetry coasters in cafes throughout the town, we endeavoured to fill every nook and cranny of the town with poetry – and we think we came close to succeeding…
While StAnza’s home is firmly rooted in the Fife coastal town of St Andrews, our love of poetry stretches much further afield. So in 2014, during Scotland’s Year of Homecoming, we embarked on a challenge to find out if the shape and nature of Scotland could be drawn entirely in poetry? We began the search for poems which have a specific Scottish location, whether named in the poem or not, and started to pin them to an online map Poetry Map of Scotland.
Such was the success of the project we have continued it beyond 2014 in the quest for a map completely covered in pins from coast to coast, from north to south, east to west, Highlands, Borders, towns, cities, villages, mountains, lochs and rivers, beaches, firths and islands, rocks and reservoirs.
Absolutely anyone can contribute to the poetry map by e-mailing us their poem at firstname.lastname@example.org with a note of its location and enough detail for us to pin it on the map. Once pinned, the opening words of the poem appear on the map at the pin.
The poems pinned to the map are being published in full on the StAnza Blog, one at a time, more or less in the order in which we receive them. We have been quite overwhelmed by the response and currently have a queue of poems waiting to be pinned and posted, so if you have submitted, please be patient. We will continue to pin and post as fast as we can.
The entire map can be viewed and read here. It’s coming together nicely, with a huge selection of poems about places as far apart as Eshaness and Edinburgh, Glasgow and Grenitote and many, many more in between.
In keeping with one of our festival themes this year, An Archipelago of Poetry, we have created an installation using postcards and poems from all the island locations marked on the poetry map. The installation includes poetry and illustrations from some of Scotland’s wonderful Islands including Harris, Mull, Iona and Tiree.
Back in Fife, and with the festival behind us for another year, we’re busy working on the Afterword, which gives an overview of the festival itself through reviews, articles, podcasts and a well-stocked gallery of images to help recapture the fantastic memories from StAnza 2015. This includes some of the lovely comments made about this year’s festival, summed up perfectly by headliner Bill Manhire who said: “StAnza itself is a magnificent creation … a world of big names and big gestures, of centre-stage events, but also a world where amazing things take place in the nooks and crannies. It’s no wonder then that the plaudits roll in.”
We will be publishing the Afterword very soon at www.stanzapoetry.org so please keep a look out for this and details of next year’s festival.
• Louise Robertson is StAnza’s press and media manager