StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival, returns from 5 – 9 March with a brand new programme of poetry, music, drama and even a spot of acrobatics! Now in its 17th year, the festival sees a fantastic selection of writers, rhymers and rhapsodists flock to St Andrews in Fife, making it one of Scotland’s biggest and best celebrations of poetry.
I went along to StAnza’s annual preview at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh in January and was treated to, amidst an eclectic range of ditties from multi-instrumentalist John Sampson and excellent readings by poets Diana Hendry and Gerda Stevenson, an extensive rundown of the 2014 programme from director Eleanor Livingstone. As part of the Homecoming 2014 celebrations, this year’s festival promises a special emphasis on the themes of home and travel, with a fantastic selection of events featuring poets from across the globe.
Headliners include Captain Corelli’s Mandolin author Louis de Bernières, who will be reading from his first collection of poetry on 6 March, and John Burnside, one of Fife’s most successful writers, on 7 March. Born in Dunfermline, Burnside’s fiction and poetry have earned him the T. S. Eliot prize, the Scottish Book of the Year Award and many more. He’ll be joined by Indian poet Tishani Doshi at the Byre Theatre, the much-loved venue reopened especially for the festival.
Inspired by the Glasgow XX Commonwealth Games, one of the festival’s two principal themes for 2014 is A Common Wealth of Poetry. Poets from countries including Botswana, Jamaica and South Africa have been invited to read their work in a celebration of poetry from around the world, with languages ranging from Hindi to Welsh. Also in focus is Words Under Fire, a special selection of events commemorating the centenary of the First World War. Join Dundee’s JOOT Theatre Company for dramatic readings of WWI poetry on 8 March, or head along to one of nine Border Crossings sessions to compare work by poets hailing from different nations.
With over 100 events on this year’s programme, many of them free, it’s difficult to choose what to see – personally, I’m really looking forward to Edinburgh slam duo Rally & Broad and Botswanan poet TJ Dema, both at the Byre Theatre on 8 March. Kids are sure to love Glasgow native and current poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s special concoction of comedy, stories and music with John Sampson on 9 March, while any budding Burns can enjoy expert advice with a great selection of masterclasses and workshops.