When local poet and artist Rebecca Sharp discovered she had been selected to represent Scotland at the International Poetry Festival of Granada, she could hardly believe it.
“Brian Johnstone, one of StAnza’s founders, put my name forward,” she explains.
“I’ve had work at StAnza a couple of times but meeting poets and poetry programmers from around the word, being able to compare experiences – the different ways poetry and the arts in general are supported and received in our respective cultures – was just wonderful,” the 37-year-old from Newport-on-Tay enthuses.
The Nicaraguan festival, held in February, offered eight days of poetry and poetry discussion – and has opened up new avenues of creativity for the Rebecca.
“Much of it was in Spanish but it was just amazing to be there and see it happening,” the theatre graduate says.
“Everyone’s work was so different and I think audiences and other poets got a sense of individuality from hearing each other read.” Rebecca had five poems translated into Spanish for the festival and created a booklet of these poems to share during the trip, although not everyone understood her Scottish accent. “Even though I was reading in English, one of the poets from England had to ‘translate’ a few words for some poets sitting with her,” she laughs.
“I hope I was able to communicate an openness; my interest in learning and sharing – and my belief that artistic practice can build bridges between people and cultures.”
So did the two cultures’ ideas on poetry and lyricism complement each other?
“I think there are similarities at the hearts of Central American and Scottish poetry – there’s a certain shared spark, a warmth and openness, possibly coming from historical and political shifts.
“There’s nothing halfway about either place, I’d say – we’re able to wear our hearts, or our political opinions on our sleeves. I sense this was recognised – everyone was incredibly warm and welcoming,” she says.
For an extra touch of individuality, Rebecca commissioned Fife-based artist Jill Skulina to create a ‘poetry parasol’ that she used at the festival.
“The parasol references landscapes of Scotland and Nicaragua, and features one of my poems The Spell,” she explains.
The trip, which also included a reading at a poetry dinner in New York where she was guest of honour, allowed Rebecca to make some personal connections too. “I now have invitations to go to London and Taiwan so who knows what else might come of it…” she muses.
Slowly coming back down to earth, she has plenty to keep her busy. Working in theatre, performance and poetry, often in collaboration with other artists, she also plays the clarsach and has composed music for some of her projects.
Over the past couple of years, she has been developing Poetry Apothecary, a range of work using poetry, writing and essential oils, exploring the idea of holistic creative practice.
“It’s good to see my work in a wider context and realising that the world is a huge place. But then it’s valuable to be able to come home and settle back into things here, and remember what I can do locally.”