StAnza - Scotland's International Poetry Festival, held the world's first virtual poetry festival on Saturday 14 November 2009.
It took a bit of getting used to, and the quality wasn’t great, but it really did work. With performances by poets from every corner of the globe who stayed at home to take part, the nucleus was the Byre Theatre in St Andrews, where a large video screen had been set up in an auditorium behind a lectern for the presenter. Woest&Ledig weren’t entirely sure what exactly it was all about, particularly since the sound quality in Emmen was patchy, but every half an hour a new bunch of poets appeared on screen.
To liven up the picture, the ‘Amsterdam Five’ had positioned two big toys in the room: a duck and a moose. It was an unusual view, and rather a silly one, not least because the room looked like a piece of Emmenthal.
Elmar Kuiper was smart enough to hold up a book in the air – advertising! He got a round of laughter from Scotland, although why exactly was lost in the mists of the internet.
The Belgians, who performed a little later, had taken an intelligent approach with close-ups and a bare background. It wasn’t that the sound quality improved enough for us to understand every word, or that the images streamed from Ghent to St Andrews suddenly became crystal clear. It was more the fact that the Krikri trio - Maja Jantar, Jelle Meander and Helen White – used sound poems to reflect the experimental nature of the virtual festival.