Recovering from Poetry Festivals – a Users’ Guide

My Writing Life

Because they are exhausting, in the nicest possible way, and leave you, on the one hand inspired and over stimulated and dying to get home to write, and on the other hand never wanting to hear or read another poem again ever! Believe me I have just been to one and am in recovery…

Seriously though it was great. The festival was StAnza the National Poetry Festival of Scotland which takes place in St Andrews every March.  I had never been to St Andrews before although I have been camping on the Angus/Fife coast, which is spectacular. St Andrews is a lovely seaside town with the Byre Theatre as the hub of the Festival and other venues close by, and selection of great bars and cafes and the sea two minutes walk away if you fancy a stroll on the beach.

I went for two very good reasons. Firstly because my friend and fellow poet, Lizzie Burns, who died last year, and who was a faithful StAnza goer, was being remembered at a reading and at the launch of a film about her final collaborative project; which brings me to the second reason which was that my friend Sitar Rose made the documentary film about this final project. Sitar and Lizzie never met each other, and it is one of my life’s strangest coincidences that I knew them both.

The reading was on the Friday afternoon and part of a two poet event, Poets Past and Present. Introducing the reading the Chair announced that Lizzie’s last pamphlet Clay had been shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award 2015 which seeks to recognise excellence in poetry, highlighting outstanding contributions made by poets to our cultural life.

Here is the full quotation about the pamphlet from the Press Release on the Ted Hughes Award website.

Elizabeth Burns: Clay

is a short collection, published by Wayleave Press, of small, meditative poems exploring pottery and the potter’s craft which are themselves exquisitely formed vessels for larger enquiry and celebration. It was written by the poet Elizabeth Burns after she worked on a joint exhibition with painter Ann Gilchrist and potter Paul Tebble, and was published shortly before the poet’s death in August 2015.

(Wayleave Press is based here in Lancaster.)

So, to continue, the exhibition was also at StAnza having previously been at the Edinburgh Festival 2015. I spent the rest of Friday and Saturday at the festival, of which more later, and returned on Sunday afternoon for the launch of the documentary film about the Painter, Potter, Poet exhibition. It is a superb documentary (26 minutes) chronicling the progress of the project both in artists’ studios at the exhibition space and in Scottish woodlands.

If you go to the website A Potter, a Painter and a Poet there is a link to the film Big Words, which chronicles the biggest printed poem, Spiral, by Lizzie, which was displayed on Canongate in Edinburgh as the winner of the Big Words competition 2015.

Having devoted most of this blog to these key events, I have decided to devote the next  blog to writing about everything else I did at StAnza. There is lots more to tell.

My Reading Week

I didn’t have a lot of time for ordinary or leisure reading while I was the festival but I bought a book by Helena Nelson, of Happenstance Press, called How (not) to Get your Poetry Published. So far it is really helpful and I am working thorugh it. I particularly like the format of having a chapter about how to get published alternating with a prompt for creative writing. More of this later.

Hare in the Headlights

Just one scary moment coming on 19th March: my reading at the International Women’s Day event …

Bye for now

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