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Mermaids, desert islands and wrapper rhymes at the StAnza Poetry Festival

Get set for StAnza, Scotland's International Poetry Festival 2020

It's official - poetry is on the rise! Long gone are the days where poetry was thought of as drab and inaccessible. StAnza, Scotland's International Poetry Festival has injected a shot of vitality and stimulaton into the world of poetry and spoken word and demonstrates how poetry can be enjoyed and appreciated by all. The Festival invites a superb range of internationally acclaimed poets and writers to the town of St Andrews each year, as well as showcasing some of the best, up-and-coming contemporary talent. Read our guest blog from StAnza festival below to find out more about this year's exciting programme! 


It’s ok to admit you think poetry is dull. A lot of people might agree with you... but then those people probably haven’t visited Scotland’s most diverse, vibrant and inclusive literature festival which celebrates poetry in all its forms. That festival would be StAnza, Scotland's International Poetry Festival, a little gem in the stunning Fife town of St Andrews.

It’s not just for golf people flock to the seaside town. In March the town is bursting at the seams with poetry fans new and old, ready to enjoy five days of poems, poems, more poems and also music, art, installations, great company, food and even the odd alcoholic beverage.   

If you haven’t tried StAnza then what are you waiting for? This is a festival which covers every inch of the spoken and written word spectrum with lots more thrown in. Whether you’re looking for the more traditional poetry reading from one of the festival’s well known, respected headline poets or something more upbeat from the growing performance scene, there really is something for everyone.

(Pictured - Sabrina Mafouz)

This year’s programme is a belter. As usual the annual festival has pulled in the biggest and most current names from the literature world with headliners including Jen Hadfield, the youngest ever winner of the T S Eliot Prize; American poet, editor and human rights advocate Carolyn Forché, recent winner of the 2019 Juan E. Méndez Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America; Anthony Anaxagorou, winner of the 2019 H-100 Award for writing and publishing; British writer, artist, film programmer and activist, Jay Bernard; and BBC Edinburgh Fringe Slam Champion 2019, Birdspeed.

These poets will be involved in a range of events including readings, poetry breakfasts, slams and StAnza’s famous lunchtime poetry cafes featuring lively poetry served with a pie and a drink.

One of the more unusual events at the festival is our WrapperRhymes exhibition. A WrapperRhyme is a spontaneous rhyming poem handwritten onto food wrapping inspired by Cadbury’s Fudge: After consuming just one finger. Thoughts of another sometimes linger. Stuff the advert. It’s just a bluff. A finger of fudge is not enough. WrapperRhymes all began the day Ted Hughes scribbled just such a piece onto a Tunnocks Caramel Wafer paper. Since then, thanks to social media, the idea has run riot. Come and have a look at StAnza and if you’re feeling creative you can even try your hand at writing your own, or just eat sweets!

Another highlight of StAnza 2020 is the first ever Desert Islands Poems where Scotland’s best loved crime writer Val McDermid will share the poems that would keep her going on the proverbial desert island. For younger poetry fans there’s Mermaids and Messages in Bottles, a poetry workshop for primary school-aged children to make messages in bottles and concrete wave poems with Rachel Plummer.

This is just a tiny taste of the 100-plus events at StAnza from 4-8 March, many of which are free, so why not check out the full programme and join us next month for a feast of poetry. And let’s face it, do you really need an excuse to visit St Andrews?

(Pictured - Vanessa Kissule) 

StAnza Festival runs from 4-8 March in St Andrews, Fife. Tickets can be booked online or by calling the Byre Theatre box office on 01334 475000.

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