School pupils often find the study of poetry to be an absolute drag. After all, most of the poems they study are written by people who are already dead. What better way, then, to make poetry alive than to have a real, living poet reading his works to you in class?
Stuart Paterson is an award winning Scottish poet who writes in English and Scottish (and he is quick to point out that these are two different languages!) He received the Eric Gregory Award from the UK Society of Authors in 1992 as well as a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship in 2014. In 2017 he was appointed the BBC Scotland Poet in Residence.
Stuart visited St Andrew’s College during June. His arrival couldn’t have been better timed; just in time to hear the Pipe Band perform at the Review Parade. He spent time with all the Grade 11 classes at College and also shared his work with the Grade 10 Advanced Programme English class and the Cornish Society.
Stuart’s performances were exceptionally well received by all the pupils he came into contact with. Once they had overcome the awkwardness of calling him Stuart and not “sir” (Ye’ll buy me a drink, if ye do that again, laddie!) they realised that poetry can be relevant, heart-warming and genuine. Stuart has a lifetime of experience working with young people of different ages and backgrounds and his down to earth writing style makes his work easily accessible.
For his last lesson at College, he was joined by Gene Barry, a highly acclaimed Irish poet who is also visiting Grahamstown. The final class was thus treated to two very different and broad accents, and brilliant poetry.
The Cawse Library now has copies of Stuart’s anthologies; Looking South, Border Lines, Aye, Heelster-gowdie/beul-fo-bhonn, as well as a DVD of him reading. Africa Matshingana, one of the library monitors was on hand to receive the books. In a poetic twist of fate, Africa, the Pipe Band Drum Major, was the first College boy Stuart met as he prepared to lead the Pipe Band on to Lower Field for the Review Parade. A real case of where Scotland meets Africa.