The Mad Yak at StAnza

First, let me say that I thought this year’s StAnza Festival was the best I’ve attended. The standard of the readings in particular was outstanding. I heard (and saw) Seamus Heaney courtesy of the live relay to the Studio Theatre, because the main auditorium was sold out. What cheered me greatly was that during the interval Seamus came upstairs to the Studio to greet us all in person. He was in tremendous form. Jean Sprackland’s reading on the Friday morning was something I’ll remember for a long time. I’ve read ‘Tilt’, but hearing the poems read in her own voice was very very special. The Friday afternoon reading with Tiffany Atkinson and Kei Miller stunned in other ways. Tiffany’s choice of phrase is often startling and unexpected, as I know from reading her book, but again she came across as an accomplished and gifted reader. I could listen to Kei Miller for ever – the poems are rich and subtle, and his delivery is warm and musical. Then  in the evening Denis O’Driscoll showed his immense charm and wit in a reading which was understated but highly entertaining. Saturday for me was the Poets’ Market, where I was on the stand with my Calder Wood Press titles. I was very happy with the sales this year, and I had picked up Juliet Wilson’s book on the way through to StAnza, so I had the full CWP range, including the four new titles I’ve published so far this year – Judith Taylor’s Local Colour, Mary Johnston’s Teuchat Storm, morgan downie’s stone and sea, and Juliet Wilson’s Unthinkable Skies. The evening readings were by Linton Kwesi Johnson and John Akpata. I say readings, but John was off the page, a performance set full of nuance and power, and all delivered from memory. Linton is a man of immense dignity, and I loved the Jamaican-English poetry he read. Sunday began for me with an extremely interesting discussion at the Poetry Breakfast, and continued with a funny and brilliant reading by Eddie Gibbons. Eddie has a new full-length collection expected any day now, and a pamphlet which I’m publishing later this year. The Undercroft reading, with Jen Hadfield and Mario Petrucci, was a contrast in mood and technique. The final evening reading was the best of the lot. Vicki Feaver was superb, and Don Paterson’s reading was quite simply masterful. I loved both. During the interval I managed, with Jayne Wilding, to catch up with Vicki. Around 10 years ago the three of us, together with Alec Finlay and others, had written a renga in Dawyck Botanic Gardens. She wants to do more, so I hope we can do that.

Finally, I’ve been in a fever of anticipation for ages now, but Sheila Wakefield brought copies of my new book, The floorshow at the Mad Yak Café on the Thursday, and I’m knocked out, blown away and turned upside down by it. It’s available from Red Squirrel Scotland.


About sunnydunny

Poet, publisher, gardener
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13 Responses to The Mad Yak at StAnza

  1. Glad Stanza went well. Your book looks great. I’m sort of in a fever of anticipation to see mine….

  2. sunnydunny says:

    I picked up your copies en route to StAnza. I’ll post your author copies off tomorrow.

  3. Thanks Colin. Do author copies include all those that i am free to sell? if not any thoughts on when I can pick those up?

  4. Rachel Fox says:

    Glad to hear Paterson was on good form. A lot of people here are looking forward to hearing him in April!

    Also glad you had such a great festival. It must feel like your second home!


  5. Davide Trame says:

    And what, dear Colin, did Seamus Heaney read? I would like to have been there.

  6. sunnydunny says:

    Davide, he read two sets of 40 minutes each – and we were all spellbound. It was as if he was talking to friends – as of course he was. A wonderful man, and a great poet.

  7. sorlil says:

    Congratulations on your book! Sounds like a fantastic time at StAnza – I would have love to have heard Vicki Feaver, Jean Sprackland and of course Heaney.

  8. sunnydunny says:

    Thanks sorlil. The excitement of getting a new book out never seems to diminish, as I’m sure you’ll discover.

  9. swiss says:

    look at all the things i missed! it’s like there was a whole other festival! lol

    next year i’ll just have to buy even more tickets…

  10. sunnydunny says:

    something for everybody, swiss. but this year i paced myself, and that made it more enjoyable.

  11. Thanks for reporting back. I’m currently working my way through the podcasts, it all sounds great. Wish I could have been there.

  12. Barbara S says:

    Heaney is really quite special in readings: I’ll never forget the reading he did in Armagh at the John Hewitt Summer School in 08 (?) with Billy Collins, one of my all-time special poetry moments.

    Congratulations on your new collection! It looks amazing and you must be really, really thrilled – as I am for you; no mean achievement for all the poetry you’ve written. So pleased for you! Bx

  13. sunnydunny says:

    Thank you Barbara. I’ve never heard Billy Collins, but I’d love to. Sheila Wakefield of Red Squirrel Press has been great to work with, and I’m really happy with the book. I’d say ‘over the moon’ but Imtiaz Dharker demolished that phrase in a very funny poem recently.

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