StAnza – St Andrews: Third day

I feel like a kid in a candy store. There are way too many colours, choices, tastes. You just can’t pick them all. The great amount that you do eat makes you sick… Of pure joy. I had another great day with Old English, poetry (surprisingly), a good chat and laugh.
I don’t know what I like best, cycling or listening or writing poetry. I’m very glad I don’t have to chose. In fact, the two can be combined smoothly as the sea and the beach.
It would be my last day with the bike, so I swallowed down my breakfast, flushed it away with two cups of coffee and took my bike from underneath the stairs where usually the golf clubs are stashed. I went for a short ride to Strathkinness. Long enough to enjoy the outdoors, to clear my head and think about the day ahead.


“It’s not like: Boom! I’ve made this up, I’m a genius.”
– Chris Jones about the common usage of kennings in Old English poetry

Chris Jones gave a workshop Old English for poets. A hundred years ago I specialized in Old Frisian, so I was really excited. We dived into kennings. I’ll give you the definition of the Wikipedia site: “A kenning is a type of circumlocation in form of a compound that employs figurative language in place of a more concrete single-word noun.” Battlelight for sword, wavestallion for ship. In Old English you have bonehouse for body. In Old Frisian you have something similar, namely benena burcht (bone-fortress) for womb. A modern day kenning is for example the word ‘skyscraper’. What was great about how Jones gave the workshop was not only his laidback and at the same time enthusiastic way but that he just let us play with kennings so to speak. He gave us tools to use them in our writing process, or maybe better put, to start writing. An exercise to get going. To expand the kenning in either a poem or in a new word that you could use. Maybe all of the words you think of are rubbish, but at least you’ve started writing. We weren’t forced to write a whole poem or come with ten kennings for let’s say a computer.



I really admire slam poets, because I can’t do without my papers. Slam poetry to me is a bit of mix of theatre and poetry. I would almost say it’s all about performance, but by stating that I do the form of art wrong. It’s words coming out of their mouths, they have something to say and it’s the way they say it that’s how the message gets through or how (much) the audience is entertained. Therefore I thought it was a pity that Hannah Raymond-Cox did only one ‘poem’. It was lively, fresh, fast and funny.

“If I had the perfect avocado, I could avoid a depression again.”
– Hannah Raymond-Cox

Catherine Wilson read both from paper and tablet. She performed a remake of the poem ‘Night’ by William Blake. The music that was played on the background of her last poem she did was absolutely of added value. Nowadays poets just turn on the radio or ask a musician to improvise, so they can say they are multimedial. That doesn’t always work out that easy. But that was not the case with Wilson.


Catherine Wilson

You’ve read it in the blog about yesterday that whilst talking about poetry, you get to talk about language as easily as when you’re talking about the sky you get to talk about clouds. I met the same woman from Galicia as the night before. Her mother tongue is Galician, but since it’s not taught in schools her Spanish is better. When she translated a Scots poet into Galician, she found out again that her mother tongue is far more natural and has much more music in it. Such a story sounds like the perfect Frisian love poem to me.

“Do you know a word with more than one syllable. He looked at me and said: ‘Wanker’.”
– Martin Figura

I mentioned theatre when I wrote about slam poetry, but what really was a theatre piece was the show Dr Zeeman’s Catastrophe Machine performed by Martin Figura. I should have gone to another venue actually, but I got the wrong ticket. I didn’t regret it for a single second. Unbelievable how he performed for a whole hour straight. With no hiccups, ‘uh’s’ or whatever. He took us through his whole life. A trip with his adolescent son and the ups and downs with his daughter with what he lovelingly stated as irritable down syndrom, his second marriage, that he wasn’t the first to turn to Bukowski to change his vinex sweater for a leather jacket.  The audience laughed, was moved, was impressed by the great set-up and the perfect timing with the pictures behind him.


Right after dinner it was time for the Quiet Open Mic at Zest Juicing and Coffee Bar. There were 23 poets who had signed up for it. So too many to mention them all. A lot of voices, a lot of variety. A tear, a laugh, an ‘oooh’. It was all there, it was lovely. I was goofying around a bit with my camera, so I only filmed one poet. It’s Roger West you see in the video. After his performance it was mentioned that the intention was that no one should be made felt awkward, embarrassed or insulted. That wasn’t the case with West in my opinion. Shouldn’t poetry be on the edge of the border? Where is the border? When do you go too far as a poet?

I had to run back to the Byre Theatre to be just in time for the readings of Pitta Little and Mark Ford. When you read for an hour there has to be a laugh as well, which brought Little to remark that she wishes to become an elk if she was resurrected. She already sees herself stepping into a garden eating the roses. Ford intrigued us all with his poem about a pool full of peanuts at the very start. It was the very first poem he ever wrote.

“A swimming pool full of peanuts is not worth the trouble.”
– Mark Ford

My fellow Frisian poets Sigrid Kingma and Tsead Bruinja had arrived. After the readings, while an open mic was going on downstairs we had a drink and a chat about poetry, dead poets, everyday life, what we had to do at the festival. I didn’t want to go to the pub. I told them I had to write this blog post. My old friends can confirm I am easy (too easy) to persuade to have another beer in a pub. So I ended up with a Guinness in the Criterion. Again a same theme popped up in the conversation. It wasn’t about the musicality of poetry, that you have to stay true to the poet you’re translating and that you have to please your audience as well, it was neither about the reluctance of saying that you are a poet, but that you say I write a poem now and then. No, it was the theme where we started the day with. Toilets, and things people do there. But I won’t further bore you with that, instead of that I’ll get ready for a day of translating the poems of Rachel Plummer and Stewart Sanderson. And you should get ready for a new day as well!



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