StAnza – St Andrews: First day

First of all I would like to say that you have to forgive me the not so poetic title. My goal is to blog about StAnza and St Andrews every day, so hence the title. Pure convenience.
(I didn’t make to write this post yesterday evening, due to staying to long in the bar.)

The day before yesterday I got the bike and drove over the beach. It was drizzling and foggy, but I bought rain trousers, because I’ve forgotten mine. Unfortunately they couldn’t stop a wave from flooding over my shoes when I made a stop to make a picture. I just hope the audience isn’t looking at my feet. Come to think about that, why didn’t I put on my cycling/outdoor shoes in the first place?
Enfin, I had a hearty breakfast (‘Craigmore full Scottish’) in order to be able to cycle all morning. The plan was to go along the coast and along the golf courses. Although the sun was out, the roads were still very muddy and wet. And therefore very slippery. And there was a bit of a cliff, stepping stones and what not. Very adventurous and it might be true that a dead poet gets more readers than when he’s alive, but I didn’t feel like trying that out just yet.
Coming out on the tarmac I felt more comfortable, especially when I found a minor road. To be quite frank I was slightly anxious, since I’ve heard that the traffic isn’t great in England. It’s good that I’m not in England, but in Scotland, because I had no complaint whatsoever. There were some potholes in the road due to the frost and a bit of snow, but that comes with the job. All in all I had a very pleasant ride through the countryside and wish I had more time to do so again. Riding on the left side oft the road is by the way no more difficult than on the right side. You get used to it at once.
Countries like Scotland really appeal to me, just like Scandinavia does. The roughness of the landscape, the kindness of the people. Apart from where there is still snow, it’s very green while underneath you the sea is splashing its waves on the cliffs. No wonder Scotland has brought forward a lot of poets. I have no doubt it will inspire me.

Today I’ll explore St Andrews itself a bit more. First of all I have a Poetry Walk by Morag Wells and in the afternoon I would like to go into town myself.





That was the cycling bit of this blog post. I promised you the previous post that I would write about poetry. On Tuesday I had a pint or two, three and something to eat with the Dutch poet Thomas Möhlmann. Yesterday we lunched with Eleanore and Annie, who are the organizers of StAnza. They are very busy preparing, but still have time for a lunch break and a chat. They do a great job making us feel welcome.

And so the opening event began with sandwiches and wine. In the crowded foyer you had a chance to talk with fellow poets and visitors of the festival. I came to talk with a Macedonian poet who lives in Scotland for almost seven years. I have stated it here before, but I’ll state it again. The beauty about travelling is not only the lovely scenery but also that you meet a lot of interesting people.
The performances itself were interesting as well. Everybody had like five minutes for a poem or two. In that way you heard a lot of different voices, poems and languages. English, Scots Gaelic, Dutch and of course Frisian. One of the themes is Going Dutch, hence the quite large amount of Dutch poets. The other theme is Borderlines and The self. Are borders stillthere in this age of globalization, or are the borders only in our heads? The self is about identity, your own character. How is that reflected in poetry. It goes too far to name every single poet who did a performance yesterday, but I name Will Harris since he used both ‘borderlines’ and ‘self’ in his terrific poem. It was about how he’s seen as foreigner due to his ‘mixed Anglo-Indonesian heritage’. Go see him at StAnza, or look him up on the internet.
A night of poetry can’t do without music. There was music between the different poets and afterwards in the café bar. The singer/songwriter Hamish Hawk did a wonderful fragile song, which moved everyone in the audience. I’m glad I heard it then, because afterwards you start drinking and talking, what is being played is more background music. Now that I’m writing this I feel a bit bad about it, since he gave his whole heart in the music. Just like the Inklight poets did after. They finished the evening and invited other people to read a poem.

In short the opening night was a succes in every aspect. I got a good notion of all the variety there is to see and hear at StAnza the coming days. To wrap up I would like to say that for me personally it’s fantastic to climb on an international stage. I read a poem by Rachel Plummer and Stewart Sanderson to let the audience know about the Translation showcase we’re in. When you perform in Fryslân you don’t often hear what people think of your performance/poetry. But outside of Fryslân you do get to hear that. It’s a thing I hear from more Frisian poets. So it was nice to get a compliment, although the poems weren’t mine. 😉

Now I need to get ready for a new day of cycling and poetry! As we say in Frisian: It could be worse.







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