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This report is taken from PN Review 241, Volume 44 Number 5, May - June 2018.

Report from Fife Vahni Capildeo
StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival, took place from 7 to 11 March at St Andrews this year. The theme – ‘Borderlines and the Self’ – was interpreted both freely and literally, from the ‘Poetry Selves: Tattoos, Masks and Moustaches’ available at the festival desk (scarlet and violet alternative faces now hang above my bed), to the labels on plants, and on the wintry lack or promise of plants, in the parterres of the Preservation Trust Museum Garden, in Gerry Loose’s ‘A Rose is a Rose is a’ creation.

Borderlines and the self are susceptible to being frail and lateral, as well as free or literal. Some of the interpretations served sterner functions; at the Imprisoned Poets Reading, Scottish PEN had placed an empty chair on the stage. The bodily presence of the poets who stood to read from the work of writers who cannot attend literary festivals, because their liberty is violently denied them, served to activate the emptiness of the chair. The chair was with in being without: sitting there with and alongside these solid, breathing speakers of words, in being without and remote from those others who had originated the word. Signifying more than absence and denial, the simple, unoccupied frame bespoke solidarity and desire. Alone, it was an occupation. It was a humbling reminder that quibbles over, for example, whether actors should read poets’ work (for which the Forward Prizes received criticism) or whether poets need to double down on sincerity, double up their competencies, and act as performers ...

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