You must be the change you want to see in the world. Mahatma Gandhi
It has been just over a month since the end of the Kendal Poetry Festival. During that time how does a poet react to what is happening out there and all around her?
My Writing life
Poetry is one of the few art forms that can be said to have survived the pandemic reasonably well. Poetry is written and often read alone, and the internet lends itself well to the sharing of workshops, readings and even festivals online. It has been a lifesaver for me to have my regular writing groups on Zoom throughout the last year.
Having said that, the Kendal Poetry Festival was tour de force and included 60 poets and up to 160 participants at some of the readings. All credit is due to the directors for getting such a complex event together so well. It was great to return to reading after reading and see the same faces there. Some of the time it felt as though we really were together sharing the experience. Of course, we missed the live buzz and getting our books signed, but there was the advantage of hearing poets who were reading in other countries and who might not have been able to come in person. Afterwards I rushed to the festival online bookshop and bought books which I am now taking my time to enjoy. For nine days the festival banished the lockdown blues.
But there was more to it than that. Much was read about the reality we are currently struggling to survive in, about climate change, about politics and the pandemic. It would be easy to dismiss the event as too small to make a difference, but I heard poets who were very clearly being the change they want to see and touching the hearts and minds of those who listen to and read their work.
In the first week of March all daily life, and the writing life, was interrupted by the murder of Sarah Everard, allegedly by a serving police officer, and by the way the demonstrations of grief and solidarity and the protests against violence against women have been addressed by the police and by the media.
I know no woman who can truthfully say that they have never been harassed or treated with disrespect because they are female. So how can we expect to live the change except by protesting, except by meeting without fear, except by walking our streets at night, and that is still hard to do.
My writing life continues reasonably steadily at about a poem a week at present pushed on by the deadline of the next online writing group. I am happily being guided at present by Kate Clanchy’s Grow Your Poem. I recommend it. Right now, I am taking a break from the group and have signed up for an Arvon at Home at the end of April.
My reading life has been rich and strange this month. I have enjoyed Anne Tyler’s The Redhead at the Side of the Road, only wished it had been longer. Also Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owen, and The Other People by C J Tudor. All good reads, getting me through this seemingly endless lockdown. And yesterday I finished reading Carolyn Forche’s collection In The Lateness of the World and very soon I am going to read it again. I have now plunged into a truly enormous anthology, more of that next time.
Hare in the Headlights
This month I have had a poem, Lune accepted for a forthcoming Grey Hen anthology and sold 35 copies of my pamphlet Just Above the Waterline.
I am currently about to make my second YouTube recording of poetry, coming up soon.
That’s all for now.