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Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer


StAnza 2024


  • StAnza 24 – the renaissance

    This year StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival (or as my daughter calls it PoetCon) was shorter than ususal, all the treats and sparkles and thunderbolts crammed into a weekend, instead of most of the week, and into one venue instaed of around the town centre. This made it more manageable for a lot of people, and much less expensive, and a lot of people took advantage of that. The Byre was busy, and very noisy, from Friday to Sunday as it is not only the setting for the readings, but functions as the poets’ gang hut. I always think of the line from Chrisy Moore’s Lisdoonvarna here

    Ramble in for a pint of stout
    You’d never know who’d be hangin’ about!

    though it is more tea and scones than pints – during the day at least. I have known evenings when StAnza becomes much closer to the gregarious shenanigans in the ballad. But this is where Scottish poetry gets together, meets friends, makes friends, spreads all the news – and the gossip. You will hear some of the best poetry around, a lot from Scotland, but also from the rest of the world. This is such an important dimension to the festival that there was an outcry when Moroccan poet Soukaina Habiballah’s visa was refused and the Home Office reversed its decision within thirty-six hours. However, StAnza offers more than a showcase to discover new talent or celebrate our icons. Most of all, it creates a space to take poetry seriously.

    For many of us, poetry is a solitary occupation. Once we leave university we mostly live in a world where poetry is exotic and arty and intellectual, and not really what the average person wants to talk about. Even writing groups are often more concerned about publication than poetics, and it’s easy to slide into a state where poetry is a self-indulgent irrelevance, a spare time hobby with not much value to anyone else. At StAnza, you are surrounded by people for whom it is a life-work, a way of engaging with all the most important issues of life, an art-form with the range and complexity to tackle everything from post-natal anxiety to bereavement, the war in Gaza to everyday sexism, from casual comedy to philosophy, lament and celebration. It’s a place where learning about form isn’t pedantry and developing craft isn’t elitist. It’s a place where spoken word, film, translation and collaboration can be explored without anyone asking ‘is that proper poetry?’ It’s where it’s okay to be excited.

    This is my big takeaway from this year. Yes, there were the fish suppers, the networking, the budget-busting trips to bookshops, walks along the beach and visits to museums, but this is the big one. The new Artistic Director hasn’t been in post long and things still feel a little improvised. But the buzz is back.



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