Festival: StAnza 2016

Hard to believe that it is now six weeks since StAnza, Scotland’s international poetry festival, took place this year. It is the second year I’ve been involved in working with StAnza, and I wonder whether, in coming years, I will ever feel the festival to be quite so much “mine” as I did this time round. There were lots of reasons for this: it was the first year that I was involved in planning from the beginning, and the thrill of seeing poets I had recommended perform, or installations I had dreamt up become a reality, was something truly wonderful. Then there was the German-language strand of events, which I came to see as my baby (although I take no credit for the original idea). And finally, there were the people. All festivals are defined by the communities they create — and while I had felt more than welcomed by everyone the year before, this time round I was no longer “the new Ian”. I was part of the family.

Now comes the statutory list of favourites, without which this would not be counted as a post about a festival. A few might include:

  • The buzz around Nora Gomringer’s performance. Seeing one of my favourite German poets become a talking point in Scotland was… [insert superlative here].
  • Knowing that I could walk into the festival hub at any time and find some constellation of people, often consisting of Clive Birnie, Harry Man, Katie Ailes, Kevin Mclean, Jess Orr and Carly Brown, geeking out over temporary poetry tattoos or creating hashtag poetry.
  • Discussing pararhyme and Leipzig with Odile Kennel over dinner.
  • My sense of elation after the VERSschmuggel event went so well. Never say that people aren’t interested in translation. Or poetry. Or German. (Don Paterson’s generous showcasing of Michael Donhauser’s work, in the latter’s absence, won him a particular place in my heart that day.)
  • The real sense of warmth created by our collective reading in solidarity with refugees. (More on that here, if you scroll down a bit.)

But ask me another day, and I might give you an entirely different list. There have been lots of blog posts with other people’s favourites springing up. I particularly love this one.

With six weeks gone by, the thank yous have long since been said. But the wonderful Eleanor Livingstone, without whom none of this would have happened, deserves a special mention. So: thank you, Eleanor. One day, we will have zebras.

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