July 11th 2016
My Writing Life
So we came to Kendal Poetry Festival on the 24th of June in a state of shock. However, the festival was in some ways a consolation; an opportunity to share concerns with other likeminded people; to be with others when alone you do not know what to think, let alone how to express your thoughts to yourself; to feel fear and anger alongside others and to experience as a thread running through it all, the timeless beauty of poetry and the passion that informs it. Every event made reference to the political events which dominated our thoughts and many of those reading chose work that would somehow reflect our preoccupations.
I attended the festival with a poet friend who had come over from the North of Ireland especially. She and I journeyed through the experience together, drawing on each other’s thoughts and reactions to what was happening there and in the wider political arena; spending time between sessions in a borrowed house, reading newspapers and talking it over. It was a strange journey and an unforgettable one.
I loved the fact that it was actually a small festival, with maybe 40 people attending all the weekend events and the bigger events being packed as they deserved to be. There was an intimacy about it and lack of parallel events that gave it a wonderful intensity that suited all our moods. The quality of the poetry presented was extraordinary. I heard poets read whose work I had read before, but not heard, Clare Shaw and Helen Mort, and was introduced to poets entirely new to me, Greta Stoddart and Hilda Sheehan. I loved the huge variety of the programme and mixture of participation and listening.
No one can blog about this Festival without mentioning the young poets and musicians. In the midst of all our depression and anxiety about the future, they brought all the optimism and energy of youth, just what we needed at that precise moment. Their poetry and their playing were amazing and uplifting. They cheered us all up no end!
It is now just two weeks since the Kendal Poetry Festival and it feels like a lifetime. No one could have possibly known that the day before the referendum result would have been in favour of leaving the E.U. As a survival strategy in difficult times I recommend going to a poetry festival with a friend.
Last week, on holiday in Northumberland, I found the time to give to reading Carole Coates’ latest publication, Jacob (shoestring Press, 2016). It takes a very brave writer to my mind to undertake the writing of a book-length single poem. Carole is one of the few who could pull it off. She also set herself the daunting task of writing from a child’s perspective in a child’s voice without sounding cutesy, patronising or losing her way. The book is a moving and fascinating account of childhood and adolescence as perceived by a boy who is experiencing it. It is written in the third person and the present tense and was, for me, mesmerising in its engagement of the reader with the subject’s world: a world that centres around his relationship with his mother. I loved all of it but especially two passages that spoke to me of my own experience: Measles, which I had as a child and remember vividly, and Saturday Afternoon, describing how the boy locks himself in his bedroom with a bolt he bought in Woolworths (I did that!). However this book is not just about those things readers can see reflecting their own concerns but also a skilful and complex portrait of childhood with all its misunderstandings of the adults’ words and actions, and it captures the sense of powerlessness in the face of the mysterious world of grownups. I recommend reading it at one sitting if you can, if not read it anyway as much of it is both touching and original.
Hare in the Headlights
No particular horrors coming up that aren’t facing us all at the so a moment for a political question instead.
If both the candidates for the Tory leadership had been men would the subject of fatherhood have been mentioned? Somehow I think not. Everyday sexism persists….
and news flash information about my next writing course in Lancaster is already on the website: go and look !
Till next time..