Find out what’s been going on in our sessions as one of our Lead Readers shares news from their group.
An Online Outing to StAnza International Poetry Festival 2022
Rafael Torrubia is the lead reader who helps to run our Creative Writing groups in Dundee and Perth.
For this year’s festival visit, the Dundee Open Book group went to StAnza International Poetry Festival, which is held in St Andrews every March. This year many of its events were accessible both in person and online. Amidst a packed program, we picked three highlights: Saintly Tales with A.B. Jackson and Karen Solie, Natural Born Storytellers with David Constantine, Martina Evans and Parwana Fayyaz and Afternoon Tea with Richard Price & Louise Halfe-Sky Dancer.
Between each session, the group reconvened for a lively coffee-fuelled discussion of each event, so for this year’s blog, we wanted to give space to some of the participants to shine a light on the festival highlights in their own words.
At this year’s Stanza, Martina Evans reminded me what it is I enjoy about writing and in particular about writing poetry. She reflected on the way she has used poetry teach – lessons on novel writing, on how to move a narrative into slow-motion, to reveal something to an audience through flashback. When I was studying drama, poems were often introduced in class. We would test out ways to present them dramatically, look for characters, look for turning points, or dissect them for lines or moods and use salvaged parts to create something new. Through these kinds of exercises with poetry our minds were opened to diverse forms of theatre, and different ways of writing for performance.
In the event, “Natural Born Storytellers,” the work Martina Evans shared appealed to me hugely as if I was hearing a monologue performed from a play – I’d love to do that one! It felt rich in dialogue and distinctive in voice, full of story and place. I sometimes find myself feeling uninvited when reading a poem, like I don’t have the knowledge I’m supposed to in order to appreciate the references, or it falls flat for me and I’m left feeling anxious that I don’t belong in these spaces. Visiting Stanza with Open Book, though, and hearing everyone’s thoughts on the various readings, reminded me that poetry comes naturally in a multitude of forms, and that there are no rules to be followed with regards to what poetry is, what a story is, where dialogue stops and starts… In writing it’s all up for grabs, which makes it so exciting. And there is space for me.
I thoroughly enjoyed the virtual StAnza visit on 13th March 2022. I am grateful that our Open Book group had the opportunity to listen to so many interesting and diverse poets.
When I looked at the list of events Rafael had selected for our group, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. ‘Saintly Tales’ and a long poem about St Brendan, didn’t really sound like something I would enjoy. I was wrong. A B Jackson’s reading about The Cog’s adventures filled my notebook with all sorts of wondrous tales!
Knowing that other members of the Dundee Writing Group watched and listened along with me made a difference. I loved the Zoom chats after each event, allowing all of us to share our impressions, likes and dislikes and also to simply chat poetry. Attending and discussing the live readings made the group feel more connected. What a great ‘team building’ exercise for a creative writing group!
Judging by the comments of the other members on the day, I believe the three events inspired all of us and also left us with plenty of ideas and motivation for our own poetry journey.
I enjoyed the second event, ‘Natural Born Storytellers’, the most. I took notes, jotted down words and phrases I liked. In addition to expanding my poetry horizon, I also learned a lot about presenting, reading and performing to an audience.
At this point in time, I am particularly interested in performing poetry out loud. I have started to attend open mic events. The StAnza visits allowed me to observe and learn from the best. It was hugely beneficial for me to study the different approaches and personalities.
I particularly enjoyed A B Jackson, Martina Evans and Richard Price performing their poetry. Overall, though, I guess, it was the variety of voices that made it such a fun and inspirational day.
Thank you very much for funding and organizing this visit!