Louise Robertson: Poetry pleaser as festival lines up a diverse array of writing talent

Liz Lochhead will be appearing at StAnza. Picture: Neil Hanna
Liz Lochhead will be appearing at StAnza. Picture: Neil Hanna
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In just a few months, the stage will be set to celebrate ­StAnza, the 21st year of Scotland’s international poetry festival.

Here at StAnza we’re very excited to have recently launched our full ­programme for next year’s ­festival which will see the Fife town of St Andrews awash with poets from all over the world for five days in March.

Louise Robertson is Press and Media Manager for StAnza.

Louise Robertson is Press and Media Manager for StAnza.

The annual event brings together some of the most exciting names in poetry together with new and emerging talent and St Andrews will once again become the lively hub and home to the much-loved festival.

StAnza, which takes place from 7 to 11 March, traditionally opens with a show-stopping first night ­performance. Audiences will ­certainly not be disappointed next year as StAnza 2018 opens with a free gala ­performance, showcasing some of the ­highlights of the festival.

Headline poets will read and ­perform, interspersed with film, music and art as a fitting celebration for such an exciting milestone in StAnza’s history.

The opening night gala will launch the five-day festival with a line-up including internationally acclaimed poets from Scotland, the UK and overseas.

Among those appearing next year is Sinéad Morrissey, who recently won the prestigious Forward Prize for Poetry and is a former Belfast Poet Laureate and T.S. Eliot prize winner.

She is joined by former Scots Makar Liz Lochhead and Scottish poet and jazz musician Don Paterson, who will be in conversation with Marie-Elsa Bragg.

Also on the programme for 2018 is Gillian Allnutt, who was awarded The Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry last year, Tara Bergin, winner of the Seamus Heaney First Collection Prize in 2014, and up and coming Scottish poet William Letford.

We will also welcome for the first time to StAnza Mark Ford, a regular contributor to the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement and the New York Review of Books. Mark was awarded the ­Poetry Foundation’s 2015 Pegasus Award for poetry criticism.

Other names include Rachael Boast, who won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, Michael Symmons Roberts, a previous ­winner of the Forward Prize, the Costa ­Poetry Prize and the Whitbread Poetry Award, the Dutch poet laureate Ester Naomi ­Perquin and the much-acclaimed prize-winning South Korean poet Ko Un.

StAnza traditionally focuses on two themes which interweave with each other to give each annual ­festival its own unique flavour.

Next year’s themes are Borderlines and The Self. Borderlines will examine how poetry can respond to and engage with a world connected through culture but divided on maps, while the second theme will consider issues around the presence or absence of The Self in poetry and how this engages with the physical and mental self as well as with the political and personal self.

In the last two years, StAnza has introduced a dedicated language focus to the festival programme, ­featuring German and more recently French under the title, La Nouvelle Alliance.

Continuing with the success of these, a highlight for 2018 will be a focus on languages of the Netherlands and Flanders, Going Dutch. This will see Dutch, Flemish and Frisian speaking poets taking part, along with other events with a Dutch connection.

We’re delighted to be part of ­Scotland’s Year of Young People 2018 (YoYP 2018) the latest of the ­Scottish Government’s series of themed years, following the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology in 2017.

The YoYP 2018 will inspire Scotland through its young people aged 8 to 26, celebrating their ­achievements, ­valuing their contributions to ­communities and creating new opportunities for them to shine ­locally, nationally and globally.

As part of this, we will be collaborating with the Byre Youth Theatre for a special event titled Catastrophe/Forms: WW1 in 9 Pictures. The event features First World War ­poetry for the end of the war’s commemorations, but in the voices of young ­people, from St Andrews and from other countries, looking ahead to the future.

Other highlights include a range of exciting art exhibitions and installations, some of which will engage with other centenaries in 2018 such as the Muriel Spark 100 and W.S. Graham’s.

Artists taking part include Rachel Hazell, Julie Johnstone and Alan Vest who ­provides the portraits for The Guardian’s My Writing Day ­column.

With around 60 poets taking part in more than 80 events at StAnza in St Andrews, it’s impossible to ­mention them all, but there will certainly ­be something to suit ­everyone’s taste.

So, come along and join the many poets, musicians, visual artists and filmmakers who’ll be bringing the historic Fife town alive with poetry, music and art for five days from 7 to 11 March.

Louise Robertson is press and media manager for StAnza.