Okri adds his voice to strong poetry line-up

NIGERIAN novelist Ben Okri has joined one of the strongest line-ups ever seen at Scotland's national poetry festival.

Screen and stage actress Linda Marlowe will also appear at the StAnza festival, performing a one-woman show of poems by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

Tickets for three appearances by the Fife festival's star attraction, Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney, have all but sold out.

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Extra places may be released, but talks are underway about a possible fourth event. Heaney's appearance at the festival in St Andrews, for the first time in ten years, is part of an Irish focus that kicks off on St Patrick's Day.

Jen Hadfield, the Shetland-based poet, the youngest winner of the TS Eliot prize, is also in the line up. With poets from Canada, the United States, Austria, Germany, Cuba and Spain, StAnza hosts events in eight St Andrews venues from 17-21 March. It has won backing this year from Culture Island and the Canada Council for the Arts, and The Scotsman is a media partner.

Eleanor Livingstone, who takes the helm as festival director when Brian Johnstone steps down this year, said: "Poetry is our focus. I would hope our poetry line-up is better than anybody else's.

"We do pride ourselves in having a wide range of mainstream and experimental writers, major poets of stature, but also new voices."