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StAnza Poems Aloud! 2020 winner

student reciting poetry in front of audience

Each year, the University Library organises a poetry recital competition for students as part of the StAnza poetry festival. The concept was the brain child of the University Librarian, John MacColl and the competition is now in its seventh year. The students who enter are asked to choose from a list of poems performed by poets who are taking part in StAnza. 17 students, an impressive number, performed on the day. The judges included Professor Jane Stabler (Head of School of English), Professor Don Paterson, and the University’s Principal and Vice Chancellor, Professor Sally Mapstone.

While the judges adjourned to make their decision, Robbie MacLeòid a poet and songwriter who writes and performs in both Gaelic and English, gave a wonderfully funny set which included a beautiful reading of a poem in Gaelic followed by Google’s English translation!

poet performing in front of screen

Robbie MacLeòid performing at the event

All students showed passion and connection to the words of their chosen poems through creative and heart-felt recitations. The judges gave special mentions to several performers who stood out for their approach, but their winner was: Mallika Balakrishnan. Mallika is a Postgraduate student in the Department of Philosophy and gave a powerful and emotionally-charged performance of My Body Can House Two Hearts by Hanan Issa.

Mallika Balakrishnan performing at StAnza 2020

Winner, Mallika Balakrishnan 

Mallika has kindly shared her thoughts about StAnza and the competition with us:

One of StAnza’s strengths is its recognition of creative connections among different forms of artistic expression. To that end, Poems Aloud was one of several StAnza events that succeeded in bringing poetry off the page, making it accessible and alive through multimodal engagement. Both in terms of the poems shared and the students performing, the event reflected the remarkable diversity and talent in St Andrews. Each performer’s interpretation communicated sensitivity, empathy, and personality; many of them left me with chills.

To me, festivals like StAnza emphasize the power of the arts to promote understanding and empathy across borders. As an international student, I felt especially lucky to engage with and learn about so much poetry from Scotland, while also connecting to the multicultural elements highlighted in the work of poets from around the globe. Above all, I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to come together with fellow community members to share words, space, and appreciation for the arts.

Mallika Balakrishnan awarded winning prize by Principal at StAnza 2020
Principal Professor Sally Mapstone presenting Mallika with her prize

The Library takes great pride in the talent, courage and creativity of the student participants each year and is grateful to StAnza for supporting this event with us.

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