University devotes seafront property to poetry

Wednesday 9 October 2002

*Caption – left-right – Professor Robert Crawford, John Burnside, Kathleen Jamie and Don Paterson – courtesy of Steve Lindridge*


The University of St Andrews is to dedicate one of its properties to poetry – one of the largest buildings in the UK to be devoted to the art form.

The University, which already supports contemporary poets to the tune of over £150,000 each year, will celebrate National Poetry Day – which this year carries the theme of “celebration” – by designating one of its most beautiful, seafront buildings as The Poetry House.

The four-storey listed building, which will become a national focal point for poetry, will also confirm St Andrews as an international centre of excellence in the field. The Poetry House is thought to be the largest building in Britain, excluding libraries, devoted to the writing and reading poetry.

Professor Robert Crawford, new Head of the School of English said, “Poetry has its roots in language and in community. The Poetry House aims to celebrate the shared commitment to poetry that has been built over centuries at St Andrews and we hope that the wider community that sustains poetry in this town and beyond will treasure and celebrate The Poetry House.”

A romantic edifice with a unique view over St Andrews castle ruins and sweeping bay, The Poetry House hosts research, teaching, workshops and readings from an international range of poets, readers and students of poetry. Poems read in The Poetry House will range from Anglo-Saxon and early Scottish verse to freshly- minted lines from the pens of students taking the popular University of St Andrews M. Litt. in Creative Writing.

The Poetry House is part of the University’s 5-star rated School of English whose staff include poets Don Paterson, Kathleen Jamie, Douglas Dunn, Robert Crawford and John Burnside, amongst them winners of the Whitbread Prize, the T. S. Eliot Prize and the Somerset Maugham Prize and many other awards. Paul Muldoon, Tom Paulin and an international array of poets will also be visiting The Poetry House over the next 12 months.

Three centuries ago, the University of St Andrews was one of the first universities to teach literary texts in English and it helped pioneer teaching in American literature. Great Scottish poets such as Gavin Douglas and Robert Fergusson (Burns’ favourite Scottish poet) were students at St Andrews. Today, the University remains strongly committed to innovation and investment in contemporary writing. It now spends around a quarter of a million pounds every year on salaries to Scottish creative writers, many of them poets.

The School of English is also a major sponsor of StAnza, Scotland’s largest poetry festival, run by local people in Fife which this year took place in St Andrews on 5 October. Poets from The Poetry House are also keenly involved in the StAnza Partnership, a new development that brings together leading poets, artists and scientists in an international poetry commissioning project which, sponsored by Sciarts, will generate an exhibition, book, UK- wide series of events aimed at adults and a series of children’s workshops. It may also serve as a pilot project for schools across Scotland.



Photographs, courtesy of Steve Lindridge, available from Claire Grainger/Gayle Cook:


 John Burnside, with saxaphone, outside specially decorated Poetry House.

 Robert Crawford, Don Paterson, Kathleen Jamie and John Burnside outside specially decorated Poetry House.

 Robert Crawford, Kathleen Jamie, John Burnside and Don Paterson next to Poetry House sign/entrance.

 Don Paterson, Robert Crawford, Kathleen Jamie and John Burnside walking up brae from castle ruins.

Issued by Beattie Media on behalf of the University of St Andrews For more information please contact: Claire Grainger on 01334 462530, 07730 415 015 or email cg24@st- View University press releases on- line at Ref: poetryhouse/standrews/chg/9oct2002


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