The weather couldn’t have been better for a Poetry Walk by Morag Wells. And a great start of the second day, actually the first day fully programmed. Morag led us around the city, reading poems at certain locations. She linked the tour with the student life. St Andrews has a population of approximately 18.000 inhabitants, with 8000 students. Therefore students have quite an influence on the city. Everywhere you look there is a student. It keeps the city young and dynamic, I suppose. The cabby who brought Thomas and me to our hotel was slightly less positive. He thought students are taking over, so it’s impossible to get an affordable apartment in St Andrews.
Anyway, students have their own traditions and Morag told us the one about students diving into the sea on the first of May at 4 o’clock in the morning.
I liked the fact that she read both older poets like Edward Muir and Helena Farnell, the latter joined our group as well.
Earlier on I wrote that The Self is one of the main themes at this year’s StAnza. Will Harris, the same one I mentioned yesterday said that inheritance is all you’ve got, it’s something active and living that grows within us. I agree with him about that. I tried to shake off my Frisian roots a few years ago when I lived in Denmark. That is stated a bit strongly, since I was still writing in and translating into Frisian, but I didn’t want to have anything more to do with the Frisian language than just that. So no meetings about getting a better position in schools for the language etcetera. But I guess it’s too deep inside my bones and marrow. I came back to Fryslân and I am involved in quite a few things concerning the language.
“I’m here for a good time, not for a long time.” – Vanessa Kisuule
Vanessa Kisuule who did a reading during lunch had a completely different experience and therefore a different opinion. Her parents came to England from Uganda when they were in their twenties. She was raised in English, she never learned Ugandan and was never interested in it. “It was a part of my heritage, which wasn’t relevant.” Until she met her grandmother, who doesn’t speak English. From the stories others have told her, she feels related with her. They both have the same character traits, but there is nothing to bridge the gap in order to talk with her, let alone be friends. A good example how important language is. But Vanessa is not the kind of woman to be kicked off her feet by that. She is campaigning for joy, a thing that is seen as not intellectual and naive. “Joy is fucking grown-up.”
“That a poet is being playful is extremely important.” – anonymus spectator
Furthermore I saw Thomas Möhlmann perform in both Dutch and English (which I understood both). He’s not only a great performer, a great poet, but also great company. I had a bit of a dip when I went to the Town Hall again for the second Border Crossing that day (the first one was with Will and Thomas) to hear Owen Lowery and Martin MacIntyre. Lowery took me by the hand and with his calm and clear voice led me into his world. In other cases you can get even sleepier, but quite the opposite happened. MacIntyre read both in English and in Gaelic. I loved it. Especially the poem about a WW1 soldier who came back at the station in Preston and had a mental breakdown. I didn’t understand a word, but how MacIntyre performed it, you could feel every bit of pain and sorrow. The poem he is reciting here below is not the one, but a nice example of a bilingual poem.
Outside the Byre Theatre my trusty steed waited for me and I was desperate to go out for a ride. I talked to a fellow poet during the Poetry Walk and she recommended I would go to West Sands. It wasn’t a long ride, but I could catch my breath and ponder about all the splendid poetry I’ve heard. I loaded up my batteries to scribble out some notes I took and just before six o’clock there was David Eyre. He wanted to let me check a translation he made with an online dictionary. He did a bloody great job. He thinks Scots is not getting the attention in schools and in public as it should be. He wants to show people the link to the other countries overseas and point them at the similarities. That we really have something in common language-wise, so that we all belong to the north sea-region. I think as well that languages, especially minority languages can help each other out, enforce each other. Borders can be crossed so easily, when you do you see how much in common we have on many levels.
Then it was time for the last poetry reading of that day. The Dutch poet Ester Naomi Perquin brought her poems with a lot of humour. Of course I knew her by name, but I have to confess that I have never read a single poem of hers, let alone have seen her live. So it was sheer delight seeing her on stage. In the break I had a short chat about identity again with another spectator. She was English and came to live in Scotland. It was just then that she felt English for the first time in her life. She asked me if I felt Dutch or Frisian. I have to say that I’m Frisian first of all. However it depends on whom I am speaking to if I say I’m from The Netherlands, or from Fryslân. Countless times I have said the same phrase: Frisian is the language being spoken in the northern parts of the Netherlands, to clarify what my situation is. After the interval the poet Michael Symmons Roberts came on stage who brought us a bit more classical poems from Manchester where he lives. And then some jazz and some pints to wrap the whole evening up.
“Love is like driving intoxicated. You think everything is going fine, but than you look in the mirror and the road is covered with bodies.” – Ester Naomi Perquin