Wednesday, March 22, 2006

StAnza 2006

For an overview of StAnza 2006, I can't better Susan Mansfield's piece mentioned below, not least because I got there only on the Saturday afternoon and left again on the Sunday before Andrew Motion's reading. But I always enjoy StAnza, whatever number of events I manage to attend. And I enjoy it as much for the contacts and conversations as for the poetry. Last year, bumping into Helena Nelson led to her publishing Tonguefire a few months later, which in turn led to my invitation to read at this year's festival. But that's another story.

The reading went very well indeed. The venue was small and atmospheric: an old undercroft with vaulted ceiling, bare stone walls and good acoustics. It was also almost full--always heartening for the reader. Audience appreciation abounded and kept coming, even into the beginning of the week. The best encouragement is when somebody who wasn't there says they heard I read well, which has happened several times. (And it being StAnza, you know the audience has some pretty quality acts against which measure you.)

I read a number of poems from Tonguefire--"Pedestrian", "Waiting for the Rains to Come", "Cardiac" and "Tonguefire Night"--followed by poems from the "Pilgrim" sequence (see this post) and three other new ones. Siriol Troup and Richard Price both read well. Richard is an excellent, quietly dramatic reader (if somewhat difficult to hear from several rows back at times, I'm told). Of the three poetries that were on offer at the reading, his is easily the most experimental and distinctive. Siriol's work is imaginative, often sharp and witty, and she comes across well in performance. The contrasts and balances made for a good reading.

Other pleasures of the weekend included catching up with various friends in the poetry world and meeting and hearing David Harsent, one of the main readers for Saturday night. The highlight of his reading was a superb extract from a new poem about tinnitus.

This year, StAnza included a pamphlet fair. My wife and I came away with a clutch of pamphlets, some by people we know, some by names unfamiliar to us. Here's hoping it becomes a regular feature of the festival.

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