On Saturday I went to St Andrews for the StAnza festival. Every year I say I should book early, and I should plan to stay over so I can get to the late night things, but always I forget, and I missed the Sorley Maclean events and seeing Billy Letford and so many more—
But St andrews is always fun. their idea of civil disobedience appears to be five pensioners tutting because the garden centre isn’t open, and the Tesco express seems to think that students live on sprouting broccoli and organic pasta (not a sausage roll insight!). I think there were more lederhosen and grey floppy felt hats (a bit like Gandalf, only with blue and white cords around them) than I personally need to feel at home in a place, but the fish supper was the best I’ve ever had, much improved by the sight of the guy behind the counter prepping a lobster while I waited for my salt and vinegar on it!
I did get to the Anne Clarke reading, and Philip Gross and Selima Hill, and they were excellent events, but the really nice thing is to wander about and meet people and find out who has interesting things happening, and discover new things about poetry. Judy Williams (who was, just by chance in the seat next to me for the Selima Hill night) introduced me to the concept of the ‘glosa’ – a poetic form which expands and comments on already existing writing. It doesn’t have to be another poem (at least not in my head; the classic version probably does) and I can see endless possibilities.
On Sunday I was at the Tower Mill in Hawick for an event organised by Eildon Tree, which was held over from the bad weather last December. It’s a long haul to Hawick from here, but those Ettrick hills are the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. I kid you not, and I am married to a guy who is nuts about hills, so I’ve seen a fair few. It was much quieter than St Andrews, but there were some cracking readings (mostly short stories), and excellent music from four girls who called themselves Fiddling Chiks. Eildon Tree is a magazine which promotes new writing ‘in the borders and beyond’, and like Northwords Now it’s free, but it’s harder to come by as there isn’t a web-site. I found it in the Scottish Poetry Library – well worth a look.