Stanza Poems Aloud! 2019 winner

Elizabeth Andrews
Tuesday 16 April 2019

Image of microphone from Poems Aloud stage

Each year, the University Library organise 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 sixth year. The students who enter are asked to choose from a list of poems performed by poets who are taking part in StAnza. Reflective of the programme, the list was diverse and included poets from Italy, London and even St Andrews itself. 18 students submitted an entry form and 15 arrived on the day. The judges included poets Georgi Gill and Richie McCaffery as well as the University’s Principal and Vice Chancellor, Professor Sally Mapstone.


Professor Sally Mapstone

While the judges adjourned to make their decision, the London based poet Caroline Teague gave an outstanding performance to the waiting audience.

Caroline Teaugue performingCaroline Teague performing at the event

The recitations showed creativity and thoughtful engagement. Each performer recited the lines with passion and depth, putting themselves into the mind of the poet and into the hearts of the audience. The judges gave special mentions to several performers who stood out for their approach, but there was a clear winner: Jenna Schmidt. Jenna is a Postgraduate student in the School of Divinity and although she is from California, delivered Christine de Luca’s poem Soondscapes in a perfect Shetalandic accent, reminiscent of the melodic beauty of that island landscape.

Winner, Jenna Schmidt

Jenna has also been kind enough to share her thoughts on the competition with us:

As a poet myself, I was excited to hear about the StAnza festival here in St. Andrews, and to hear poets presenting on their work and process. The Poetry Aloud competition was brought to my attention by my friend and fellow postgraduate, Ashley Mowers, who also entered and performed a piece by one of the judges, Richie McCaffery. With her focus in theatre and mine in poetry, we thought it would be a good exercise of our abilities outside of academia for a change. I chose Christine de Luca’s poem ‘Soondscapes’ because the initial grappling with the Scots fascinated me; I’ve worked in Old and Middle English, and Old Norse, in the past, and enjoy the feelings of familiarity and confusion afforded by language so close to your comprehension yet slightly out of reach. The cadence and earthiness of Scots is beautiful, and de Luca’s language imbues the images with a strength they couldn’t fully achieve otherwise. I’m usually very anxious about any kind of performance, but with both my friend’s coaching and really being able to settle into the loveliness of de Luca’s poem, reciting it at Poetry Aloud was more fun than anything else. The opportunity to perform poetry was enough of a prize, but I was so surprised and thankful when I won—it has given Ashley and me more opportunity to expand in such collaborations of poetry and drama, as well as given me the opportunity to actually meet the poet while she was at StAnza. Christine de Luca is a genuinely sweet, grounded, kind person whose love for her land and her poetry are evident in her conversation, and it was absolutely incredible to have the opportunity to sit with her for a coffee and a discussion of the art we love. Ashley and I are used the prize money towards design and costuming for a collaboration of poetic performance, as a part of Transept, an artists’ group within the Institute for Theology, Imagination, and the Arts in St. Mary’s. Transept hosted an exhibition of artwork to take place in the week leading up to Easter Sunday; visual art and text will be displayed during the week in Holy Trinity and St. Leonard’s Chapel. Our performance piece, called Marginalia, based on the three Marys present at the crucifixion, took place on the Sunday before Easter (Palm Sunday) in St. Salvator’s Chapel, and featured my own poetry, dramatic dialogue by Ashley Mowers, and music written (as well a piece directed) by Joel Clarkson, an ITIA PhD.

Jenna Schmidt
MLitt Student, Institute for Theology, Imagination, & the Arts
University of St Andrews

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