StAnza 2012 international poetry festival opens

Opening event explores Philip Larkin's relationship with jazz

Stanza, the St Andrews-based international poetry festival, has opened its doors for the fifteenth year, bringing together poetry, art and music leavened with learning, humour and good performances. Having earned a reputation for tight adherence to quality and organisation over the years, the 2012 festival promises to deliver an outstanding programme.

This year's opening ceremony, in which the Stanza poetry archives were formally handed over to the University of St Andrews for safekeeping, featured a programme of words and jazz entitled 'Kind of Larkin', chosen to reflect the taste and observations of Philip Larkin, a lifelong jazz fan and a jazz critic for many years. The Dave Batchelor Quintet delivered a lively and enjoyable selection, playing with panache and a sense of fun. Larkin’s thoughts on the development of jazz were read with consummate skill by David Hayman, who imparted nuanced perfection to every enthusiasm and excoriating criticism. Larkin grew increasingly disenchanted with the development of modern jazz, as opposed to the ‘hot jazz’ of his youth as performed by Duke Ellington and other artists. Larkin's comments are both funny and cutting. He despised the ‘sort of insolent egotism’ of John Coltrane, and by the 1960s had begun to dislike what he had loved so deeply. His thoughts on modern jazz also extended to modern art, where he complained of an over-mystification and moral outrage stemming from an over-concern with materials.

The opening event was exemplary of how the Stanza programme combines enjoyment and education to make for a consistently successful festival. Although poetry is at the centre of it, other arts are given room to flourish and made available for the public to enjoy. The opening day also included a showing of the film Submarine, based on the poet Joe Dunthorne’s first novel, a brilliant evocation of the drama of adolescence and the slightly skewed perspective of that age.

Stanza 2012 runs between 14-18 March

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