‘THIS FESTIVAL FORCES YOU TO KEEP ON LOOKING FOR NEW PEOPLE’ Hitlist THE BEST BOOKS, COMICS & EVENTS*
✽✽ Aye Write! A terrific selection of authors make their way towards Glasgow’s Mitchell Library for a feast of literature. Germaine Greer (pictured), Christopher Brookmyre, Don Paterson, Denise Mina, Susie Orbach and Tariq Ali are a mere sample of the delights in store. See feature, page 26, for Louise Welsh and First Word, page 2, for Dan Rhodes. Mitchell Library, Glasgow, Fri 5–Sat 13 Mar. ✽✽ Jen Hadfield The youngest ever winner of the TS Eliot Prize for poetry heads up a workshop entitled Between Leith and Lerwick. David Hume Tower, Edinburgh, Mon 8 Mar. ✽✽ Richard Holloway Everyone’s favourite former Bishop of Edinburgh presents the Hugh MacDiarmid Lecture. Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh, Wed 17 Mar. ✽✽ StAnza St Andrews flings its doors open wide once again to a gaggle of top notch poets with Seamus Heaney, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Ben Okri all showing up. See preview, left. Various venues, St Andrews, Wed 17–Sun 21 Mar. ✽✽ Jonathan Safran Foer The sharp New York author of Everything is Illuminated delivers a reasoned argument for vegetarianism in Eating Animals without hectoring to the meat-munchers among his fanbase. See review, opposite. Hamish Hamilton. ✽✽ Joe Hill Stephen King’s lad shows that he’s his own man with second novel Horns, in which our flawed hero Ignatius Perrish starts having a devil of a time. See review, opposite. Victor Gollancz. ✽✽ Tony S Daniel & Various In Batman: Battle for the Cowl, Bruce Wayne’s shoes need filling quicksharp with a crimewave slicing Gotham City apart. See review, opposite. DC/Titan.
As StAnza gets ready for its 13th annual event, Poet in Residence Kei Miller tells Suzanne Black why it’s much more than just another book festival
H istoric St Andrews is home to StAnza, one of the most interesting events in the literary calendar. The poetry festival’s unassuming programme sets out the expected author events, the star names like Seamus Heaney, the technique- polishing workshops and an enigmatic yet inclusive theme (Myths & Legends), but as programme highlight Kei Miller points out, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. ‘A lot of what makes it so special happens outside of the readings with people hanging out, which is what a good festival should be.’ As StAnza’s Poet in Residence, Miller will have time to savour the atmosphere, being sequestered to the site for the five-day festival’s duration. For him, what sets StAnza apart is that ‘they’re not trying to be a book festival; they’re trying to be a literature festival.’ Explaining further, he describes the benefits of moving away from publication schedules and bestseller lists. ‘The thing with a book festival is it means that whoever has a book out this year is always picked so the list of readers is tied to whoever is current . . . Writers can end up writing books to get invited to certain festivals just to keep current.’
StAnza places a prohibition on readers returning within five years which, as Miller says, ‘forces you to keep on looking for new people’. This fostering of new talent is a feature of both Miller’s teaching work at Glasgow University and the workshops strand of the programme, the most intriguing-sounding of which is Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (which means ‘the fear of long words, if you can believe it’) and during which Miller will explore the
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rhythmic possibilities of words of differing lengths.
As it happens, Miller does also have a forthcoming poetry collection, A Light Song of Light, due to be published in July. The new book deals with the recent economic recession, family tragedy and ‘how in the midst of all of this darkness can you write a poem that is a song of light?’ This balance of positive and negative forces and the struggle to understand and manage them is where his work crosses over with the festival’s theme. ‘The poems do all kinds of strange things but the parts that explore darkness often playfully explore different creatures that you imagine inhabit the night. A lot of those are mythical creatures, some of them from my own background in the Caribbean. And singing this song of light does that same thing where it tries to become mythical.’ In Brian Johnstone’s final year as director, before handing over to Eleanor Livingstone, the portion of the programme devoted to his Director’s Cut will unite old memories with hopes for the future. Similarly, the Myths & Legends seam displays the intersection between new voices and old truths and is a chance to visit an invigorated festival in an ancient town playing host to new writers in the pursuit of one of the oldest pastimes.
StAnza runs from Wed 17—Sun 21 Mar at various venues in St Andrews. Kei Miller appears at The Byre Theatre, Wed 17 Mar; The Town Hall and Parliament Hall, Fri 19 Mar; Public Library Meeting Room, Sat 20 Mar. See www.stanzapoetry.org