14th annual poetry festival combines both major and emerging talents
The StAnza International Poetry Festival 2011, now in its fourteenth year, gathered together an array of major and emerging talents. The Festival's themes this year were Timepiece and The Poet’s Ark, both themes which encompass history and community, and the sense of community amongst the poets at the festivals was palpable. The readings by headline poet Yang Lian from his Riding Pisces collection in Chinese, and the collaboration with Brian Holton in translating, them was evidence of this creative communing, as Brian then read them in English, and sometimes in Scots, explaining something of the process of their translation along the way.
The Festival encompassed a range of sparkling, intellectual and deeply moving poetry, as well as performance poetry and a slam event during which brave unknowns gave voice to their poetry. There was more variety still with the presence of sound and visual poetry and in depth discussions in the programme. One of the exhibition highlights featured Persian calligraphic shape poems, Ten Poems of Hafez by Jila Peacock, who has made a beautiful book of these illustrations as well as her own translations of the poems of Hafez and a short film. This exhibition continues beyond StAnza at the Town Hall in St. Andrews.
The Poetry Cafe Breakfast discussions, featuring poets Fiona Sampson and Diana Hendry and others, explored the impact of the Authorised King James translation of the Bible on poets, its many versions, and how its poetry through metaphor and images has become loaded with different layers of meaning over time. For example, the question was raised of whether the many biblical echoes in much secular poetry will go on being understood today as less people go to church. Ancient poetry also featured as part of an event entitled Timepiece, where the fragmentary epitaphs of Simonides recall the war of terror between the Greek City States and the Persians in the sixth century B.C, when many civilians died after being caught up in the carnage in their own backyards. These wars have interesting parallels with today’s conflict between West and East and Professor Robert Crawford‘s paper during the StAnza lecture made many interesting points: amongst them the value of poets in recording through the poetic form a measured response to war. The secondary of the Festival’s themes ,The Poet’s Ark, addressed the notion that poets past and present are bound together surrounded by a sea of uncertainty, and the idea that poetry gives voice to, and insight into, human preoccupations.