StAnza: Repetition, Surrealism and Hestiation
St Andrews was bathed in glorious sunshine this weekend past for StAnza, even if there was a bit of a chill to the wind. It certainly brought to mind Alastair Reid’s “Scotland”, famously burnt by the man himself two years ago. Reid was there in spirit, as you can hear in the podcast exerpt of Jay Parini’s lecture (recommended). However, this year, Rabbie was doing the burning, what with it being the year of homecoming. Now that inevitably brings to mind Bill Herbert’s “Rabbie, Rabbie Burning Bright“. But I digress.
As if that wasn’t enough, when I got home from work I had no wallet. I was pushed for time as it was, but I had to phone up and cancel my cards and report it missing to the police. (I discover now that was in my desk at work. Numptie!) Still, without being a danger to myself or other drivers, I managed to check in to my B&B on the extreme southern edge of St Andrews and make it to the Byre with only moments to spare before Eleanor Livingstone walked onstage to introduce Bill Manhire and Simon Armitage.
There was quite a crowd in the Byre bar for the open mike, which followed the Manhire/Armitage event. As is often the case at these things, the bulk of the writing was comic verse, but there was plenty more serious stuff too. The standout readers for me were Allan Gillis, Rob A Mackenzie (whose choice of “Scotlands” was perfect on a number of levels), Kevin Cadwallader (whose line about the surrealist coppers I loved, though every time I saw him the rest of the weekend I forgot to tell him) and Judith Taylor. It was also good to hear Sorlil, who read much better than she seems to think, and Ross Wilson in particular. I read “Pedestrian”, which went down well.
After the open mike, Rob, Ross and I headed pubward with Roddy Lumsden, Adam O’Riordan and a friend of Roddy’s whose name, shamefully, continues to escape me. I fell into discussion with Adam and Ross about the SNP, devolution, independence, the West Lothian question and the lack of brilliant young left-wing politicians. That among other, more literary things, like. There were dark mutterings from StAnza student volunteers about a party of the fun kind, but the less said about that the better. Not that there is anything to say about it, because it didn’t happen, due to misunderstandings, miscommunications and somebody deciding to stay in the student union. Just as well, really: it meant I could roll into bed by 2 am and be relatively compus mentus the next day.