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It’s always nice to know that someone’s out there!

My Writing Life.

Every Tuesday I go to sing with my local women’s acapella choir, Dot Crochets and the raging Harmonies, ( It’s been going for  over 20 years) and a couple of weeks ago one of the members of the  choir came up to me for a chat and told me that she read my blog. I felt dead chuffed!  Sometimes when I write these things I wonder if any one reads them… and I hope that I am not writing into a void. Occasionally people post a comment and I know I have some faithful friends who read, and it is very nice when they do. So thank you to all of you out there..and read on.

Writing life has been busy recently  as I spent March working on  my pamphlet entry for the Cinnamon Press competition. It felt like a marathon task to get it all together in time even though it was only 21 poems. Also in March two readings popped up for me; the first at Words by the Water at Keswick where I joined contributors to the anthology Write to be Counted. The second was at the most recent Poem and a Pint at Greenodd village hall where I read on the floor spot at a reading by Jacob Polley. In case some readers don’t know Greenodd is a little village in the South Lakes, just this side of Ulverston.

Since the beginning of this year I have been convening a writing practice group once a month at a local cafe to write to prompts offered by the Writers’ Book of Days. These have been very informal sessions with just two or three of us, but they have kept me writing… which is always good.

March also saw the Lancaster Litfest and poetry day was excellent with a wide range of poets to enjoy. The Litfest this year focused on Indie publishers, talking about their businesses and showcasing their poets, and I found that both very useful and fascinating.

The next few months will, I hope be a relatively quiet time when I can just write and write without too many deadlines and challenges. I am sure I am not the only writer to long for such times.

My Reading Life

Well, I finished the marathon reading of Sapiens, mentioned last time and since then  have enjoyed some good fiction including Tracey Chevalier’s The Last Runaway and Joanna Cannon’s Three Things about Elsie. I am almost ready to embark on the sequel to sapiens, Homo Deus. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Hare in the Headlights

Quite distant headlights this time; I’ll be doing another workshop in Ambleside this coming July in the newly refurbished library. Look for details on my website nearer the time and in September I’ll be reading at the 3rd Kendal Poetry Festival at Afternoon tea with the Brewery Poets. Look out on their website for further details.

Poem of the month for May is coming soon. I missed April, I’m afraid. It will be Bosnian Coffee as I am not long returned from a holiday in Sarajevo.

Long time

My Writing Life

I know, I know, six months in fact, but I’m back now, not before time.  I hope I have still got some loyal readers out there who enjoy this blog? Over the last few months life has caught up with me big time and unfortunately my writing life and with it my website and blog has gone on the back burner. But not entirely so ..

In November, to start the catch up, I went to Tyn Y Coed near Conwy on the writing course run by Cinnamon Press. Five days of very persistent Welsh rain and poetry. I highly recommend this course and its parallel one in the spring as a good writing retreat. There are workshops, but not too many or too long, a very good variety with something for every genre of writer. There are individual sessions with the course tutors and a chance to take some work and have it critiqued by the (small) group. There are readings in the evenings and the good company of other writers. Most importantly for me there was time to write, and plenty of it. I learned a lot and perhaps more importantly was given great encouragement.

The course was followed in January by another kind of writing retreat, in the form of online and telephone mentoring from Katrina Naomi. Katrina lives in Cornwall so it had to be done at a distance. I sent her six poems on which she gave excellent feedback and the phone conversation really pushed my work on and encouraged me.

I really feel that these two very different experiences have turned a corner for me in my writing and I am now writing more adventurously and with more attention to technique.

At the course in Wales two books were recommended which have become my ‘work books’ week on week ever since. They are The Writer’s Book of Days by Judy Reeves and 52 by Jo Bell. The books offer very different opportunities and challenges and I recommend you give them a try. Inspired by the Reeves book I have started a Writing Practice group once a month where a few of us meet with a nice coffee in a local cafe and write to  a prompt from the book and share our writing.  We have had two sessions so far; very informal and a chance to write outside the solitude of the laptop or the constraints of the workshop.

Finally it is Lancaster LitFest this month and I’ve just come back from hearing Heidi James read from  her novel, So the Doves, fab! Reader, I bought it..

 My reading (six months!)

Apart from the usual detective novels, I have been, and am still, engrossed in Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. It is a long challenging and absorbing read. I have the real book and read it before going to sleep in order to cut down on screen light, and it is taking me time but that means also time to absorb it and reflect on the new ideas, and perspectives.

Some while back I particularly enjoyed reading Kim Moore’s sequence of blog of her domestic violence poems. Worth visiting her archive for that, I think.

Hare in the Headlights  

Plenty coming up: Next Tuesday 13th March I am to read with other poets the poem that was published in the anthology Write to be Counted, at Words by the Water in Keswick. I have had one of my night shelter poems The Jargon accepted by Envoi magazine, look out for it in May. And I am at present preparing for a last minute entry to the Cinnamon press pamphlet competition.

Enough for now

 

 

‘Theatre is a protected space …’

‘Theatre is a protected space in which we may tell the stories of our shared humanity ‘

(Sir Nicolas Haytner artistic director of the new Bridge Theatre in London)

My Writing Life

So too is poetry, or any art form for that matter. But poetry offers an intimacy that the play or the concert doesn’t. It is an intimacy we share with the painter, and like the painter it is an intimacy of absence. Someone reads my poems and thinks about them and I am, more often than not, not there to see how they react, yet somehow it remains a very personal encounter.

This last Saturday I travelled to Penrith to read at the northern launch of Write to be Counted, an anthology of poetry to uphold human rights. (The Book Mill 2017). Those of us who read at the launch were duly applauded but I found myself thinking about the poets  who contributed from other countries, such as Lebanon and Cambodia? Those poems will be read in sitting rooms and at kitchen tables in moments  of reflection.  The poets will not ever know how their poems are received and understood, but during the time that it takes to read a poem they can rely on the intimacy of the readers’ concentration on the page with their words, on the readers’ respect and attention, to tell a story of our shared humanity.

The inclusion of my poem If Only (2013) in this anthology is a great privilege and actually also very exciting because it is the first time I have been anthologised!

During this last month my writing has been laid aside while I have been returning to theatre work, having been invited by the associate director at the Duke’s Theatre here in Lancaster where I have been working on the latest production ‘Blackout, their latest community/ professional combined production which retells stories of the blackout and flooding which storm Desmond brought upon us in December 2015. It has been great fun to go back to performance work after eight years. So no blog until now…

My Reading Week(s)

My poetry writing is still being guided by Glynn Maxwell as I find time every now and then to read a chapter in his book On Poetry.

When I think about politics, which is far too much and makes me  feel profoundly depressed, I have found some consolation and food for thought in Naomi Klein’s inspiring book No is Not Enough. She is a very accessible and excellent writer and journalist, giving a terrifying, but also cogent and enlightening, analysis of how the whole Trump phenomenon came about. Read it! It won’t cheer you up but it will leave you feeling you understand a bit more about what ‘s going on out there!

 Hare in the Headlights

I am looking forward to a full programme for the long dark days of winter ahead. On the 4th of November I am off to Tyn y Coed for their five day writing course, a real treat and I am looking forward to it. Then as soon as I am back I have next in my series of writing workshops to teach in Ambleside. This one is about memoirs and full details are at the end of this blog. There are still paces left. And then in November I have my first online mentoring session with Katrina Naomi…

Bye for now and scroll down for workshop details below

 Fancy a day out in the Lake District?

Then why not come along to a creative writing workshop on Memoirs?

On Saturday 11th November 2017

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

At Ambleside Parish centre

Tutor Dr Elizabeth Hare

Cost £8

For more information and to sign up for the workshop please email info@elizabethhare.co.uk

[This workshop is subsidised by Learning Plus Ambleside, a self-help, learning and community support registered charity.]

What is a memoir?

The dictionary says  A memoir is a book or other piece of writing based on the writer’s personal knowledge of people, places, or events: Or A written record of a (usually famous) person’s own life and experiences

Come and explore some other definitions and try writing a memoir yourself. You don’t have to be famous to take part!

 

 

 

The will of the people

My Writing Life

This blog starts with an unashamed political rant. I don’t so them often but this week it really got to me, so here goes…

I am sick of hearing ‘we can’t betray the will of the people’ as the reason/excuse for continuing down the path of Brexit to the cliff edge of March 2019.

This reasoning about Brexit is hypocritical because of what is happening here in Lancashire. Let me explain.  In 2015 our duly and democratically elected County Councillors in Preston rejected the application for planning from the company Cuadrilla to start drilling for fracking at Preston New Road, near Blackpool and in two other places in Lancashire. This seemed at the time to be a clear expression of the will of the people of Lancashire, lawfully debated, voted on and agreed by the County Council.

However, in May 2017 a government order overturned this democratic decision and gave permission for fracking to go ahead in direct betrayal of the clearly expressed will of the people. This would seem to suggest that the government pleads the ‘will of the people’ as a reason for doing things when it suits them and ignores that same will when it doesn’t.

So fracking has started at Preston New Road and the demonstrators are out against it. (I’m going down soon for the day!)

This blatant flouting of the democratic process makes a complete nonsense of the government’s often repeated excuse for not reconsidering Brexit and all its ghastly implications.

However now at last the Labour Party have made up their minds where they stand and I am very much encouraged as one of the 48% by their grown up proposal for an extended transition period, instead of the endless throwing the toys out of the pram we are being subjected to at present.

My guess is that the next few weeks in politics is going to be very exciting and full of surprises!

Reading week

I have been reading lots of poetry lately, always inspiring. I’ll put more details in the September blog. I have just started on Glynn Maxwell’s On Poetry: so far lots of really interesting ideas.  In terms of fiction I am now stuck into Do not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien (2016). I recommend it as a good, but not an easy, read as it pulls no punches in the description of the reality of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Also I have recently finished The Essex Serpent (Sarah Perry 2016). It is good once you get into it and in places really funny, another good read.

Hare in the Headlights

14th October see the launch of a new anthology, Write to be Counted, and one of my poems, If Only is going to be in it. I’ll be reading at the launch in Penrith. There will be more details in the September blog.

Poem of the month for September is from my pamphlet, and entitled Days.

Also a new venture ‘voice coaching’; I am now offering poets, and writers generally, the opportunity to improve their public reading skills and do their work justice at readings and open mics. Please contact me if you are interested.

My next poetry workshop for Learning Plus will be on Saturday 11th November from 10 am to 3 pm in Ambleside. The theme is Memoirs and the cost is £5 for the day as it is subsidised by Community Development Funding. If you are interested in attending please contact me.

That’s it for now.

Remembering Backwards

Remembering Backwards

My Writing Life

It’s been a month, more or less, and a busy one, since the last blog  and I am trying to remember what has happened to tell you about. Before I got to looking at the diary to prompt me I remembered someone (and I have no idea who) telling me that the way to remember detail is to think backwards.

Here is how it works. Supposing you are trying to remember what you did yesterday; what you do is remember the last thing you did before going to bed and then work backwards.  It works especially well when you have lost something: your glasses, your keys, your phone…

So, having done this and reversed the order (are you following this?), this month started with a ‘poetry marathon’. On Saturday 1st July the prize winning readings for the Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition were held at the Jerwood Centre, at Dove Cottage in Grasmere, where incidentally there is nowhere to park!

On the same day this was followed by Poem and a Pint, a regular Cumbria poetry event, at Greenodd Village Hall, a lovely venue with no parking!  A day of driving round in circles….

However, at the latter event I had a chance to read in the floor spot which was great. The guest poet was Emily Berry. Her work is surreal and fascinating, but not my taste I am afraid. I can’t be the kind of blogger who loves all poets. She is just not one of my favourites.

Next up, after the regular Stanza and writing group meetings, was my poetry workshop in Ambleside on the theme of Journeys. By some weird coincidence the theme of our Stanza meeting the previous Thursday was also journeys. The workshop went well, with seven people who wrote cheerfully all day. It must have been OK because Learning Plus has invited me back to do another one in November (details to follow).

After this first rush and the following Brewery Poets meeting, my writing life went quiet(er)  in terms of events, but I have been busy. I sent off six poems to catch Happenstance’s open July window for submissions for feedback and was astonished and delighted at how quickly they were returned, and very pleased with the feedback from Helena: lots of very helpful criticism and many positive comments. Receiving this has really boosted my confidence and the next thing I will do is send some poems to a couple of magazines. I am now revisiting other poems in the light of what she said about my work in general.

My reading week

My reading is still in the doldrums of detective fiction (some of it very good incidentally; I recommend the latest Peter Robinson Banks mystery) and I even missed my regular reading group this week. So this month’s report definitely has ‘room for improvement’ on it as a comment, and possibly something about doing my homework!

Hare in the Headlights

Two bits of news:

I have had a poem accepted for an anthology of feminist poetry to be launched in October (Write to be Counted) details nearer the time.

And at last, after a whole year without one, a new poem of the month. It is the title poem of my pamphlet ‘Gardening with My Father’, appropriate to this time of year when I am working among my rows of beans on the allotment. Visit the page to read and enjoy it.

 

 

A week is a long time in poetry

My writing life

It already seems an age ago. The Second Kendal Poetry Festival has been and gone and yet it was only the weekend before last. However it has not faded in my memory, far from it, indeed it has already had an effect on my writing.

Others have blogged and reported on it and all its splendours and here I would like to highlight what were the best bits for me of a splendid feast of poetry and fun. The Friday night main reading was Hannah Lowe and Billy Letford. Not only was the work of each poet stunning, they also worked together in lots of ways, an inspired combination.

What characterised both readings was the commitment of each poet to their subject matter and a sense of compulsion which drove them to explore it. Alongside this sense of passionate involvement was the sheer virtuoso skill of their use of language. Wow!

Hannah Lowe read mostly from her recent collection Chen and I particularly loved the poems which mentioned her Nan, a person of great character whom I now feel I have met.

I first met Billy Letford at Kim Moore’s Poetry Carousel last year and enjoyed working with him. His poetry, most of it recited by heart, has an admirable intensity and I love his poem The Interview especially the first and last lines. (No I’m not going to quote them; they only work in the context of the whole poem.)

The other highlight for me was Kathryn Naomi’s wonderful workshop on writing long poems. Like many others present at the workshop I was hesitant about writing more than say, forty lines. She suggested it might be from a feeling that others might think I was ‘going on too long.’ This really struck a chord. I went on to try writing, or rather start writing, three long poems in the workshop. One of these was about my brother who died a few years ago, and this one I worked on and read to my writing group last week. I am still thinking about the other two and will get to them in due course

Last Friday 23rd of June was another important day in my writing life as it was on that evening that here in Lancaster we celebrated the life and work of the late Elizabeth Burns at an event entitled Elizabeth Burns: legacies

Alan Rice, Elizabeth’s widower had asked me a couple of months ago to help him organise this event and it was a pleasure to do so.

The evening included readings from a range of Elizabeth’s work, the showing of the film Painter, Potter, Poet a record of her collaboration with Paul Tebble and Ann Gilchrist in Edinburgh just before her death in 2015. The beautiful film was shot and directed by my friend Sitar Rose. Part of the evening was devoted to readings and tributes from member of the various groups that Elizabeth ran and was part of, here in Lancaster. It was a chance for us as her fellow writers to acknowledge her great influence, contribution and inspiration.

 Reading week

Well if you look at the above you will realise that I have not had a lot of time for serious reading just lately… excuses for reading more detective stories!   I have however, just read the article in the current Mslexia about how to write popular best sellers….  worth a look.

Hare in the Headlights

Coming up; submissions to magazines and may be to a pamphlet publisher and the workshop at Ambleside library next Saturday 8th July  10 to 3 entitled Journeys. There are a couple of spare places if you are interested email me soon at info@elizabethhare.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now is the time

Blog 29th May 2017

My Writing Life

One week has passed since the attacks in Manchester and the horror is still sinking in as each day there is more detail. I have been feeling too numb to write and hoping to do something for the writing group on Wednesday.

Here the flag is flying at half mast on our Town Hall. Yesterday I heard there were young people from one of our local high schools present at the concert. They all survived unhurt but are traumatised by what they saw as they made their escape from the arena.

In the days immediately following the bombing there were messages from all over the world offering shared grief and expressions of compassion and solidarity. The most immediate and powerful of these came from our neighbours in Europe, many of whom have experienced recent terror attacks and could voice their understanding of what we are going through as a country.

Of all of these messages the image that stays with me is of the newly elected president of France, Emmanuel Macron. He walked from the Elysee Palace a few hundred yards along the street to the Faubourg St Honore to the British Embassy. The television pictures showed him walking along the pavement with the Prime Minister and two security guards. The image was of a man walking along a street in his own city to visit a friend how had received bad news.  It managed to be at the same time simple, touching and statesmanlike.

Images like this bring us back inevitably to the big question. Why, in our time of trouble are we leaving our closest and best friends, leaving the European Union,  walking away in pursuit of a misguided sense of identity and of independence both of which we have already?

Surely after the catastrophic and tragic events of last Monday we should think again. As a country we could do worse than take a leaf out of Manchester’s book.  All week report after report has been about w Manchester is coming together, standing strong against the backlash of Islamophobia, against our real enemies who seek to destroy our civilisation, our belief in democracy, our way of life.

Our European neighbours, and among them those who come here to be members of our families and to live and work with us, are not our enemies. They share our values and our aspirations for a liberal and free society.

Now is the time when we are up against it, challenged by the evil of extremism and fanaticism. Now is surely then the time for us to come together, and now is not the not the time to walk away.

My Reading Week

I am currently reading Helen Dunmore’s latest novel, Birdcage Walk. I have found the story moves slowly, but I do enjoy the way she writes an historical novel in contemporary idiom. The end is pleasingly surprising and dramatic!

Hare in the Headlights

 Lots coming up

Most importantly I am helping Alan rice to organise Elizabeth Burns: legacies on the 23rd June her in Lancaster at the Gregson Centre. It will be an opportunity to hear some of Elizabeth’s poems, .to see the film of A potter, a Painter and a Poet her collaborative venture with artist Ann Gilchrist and potter Paul Tebble  and was the last work  she undertook before her death on 2015, and to hear tributes form poets and writers here in Lancaster who have been inspired by her and had the privilege of working with her in  workshops and groups.

Also gearing up to give a workshop in Ambleside early in July as well as writing on …

 

 

The Untold Story of Yesterday

Poets, and all writers, should always be concerned with what is said and what is left unsaid. So when we watch or listen to the news we are always looking for what is not reported for what is left out of the headlines. It is not so much the fake news as the unreported that gives the bias of the media source away.

With a general election in the offing, and I can’t ignore it, sorry, I am a political creature, I find myself thinking about what I know has happened and has not been told. My duty as a writer and poet is to tell the untold stories, so here is one from yesterday, and I don’t mean long go, I mean yesterday, Saturday 13th April 2017.

The radio the TV and newspapers and the internet were busy reporting the endless and very boring and predictable exchange of personal insults between politicians that now passes for campaigning, (Yes we know you don’t like him Teresa, so what?) and the ransom ware cyber attack and the Eurovision song contest.

While here where I live something much more important, and in some ways more significant, was happening. Having been a teacher for the best part of forty years I remain passionate about education. So I joined a gathering of some 900 people in outside the Town Hall to protest against the education cuts proposed by the current Tory government which will take place if they win the election.

With the proposed cuts to funding per pupil our town stands to lose across its 16 schools an estimated 92 teachers. That’s 92 redundancies of hardworking professional people, 92 families directly affected, 92 mortgages compromised, 92 times 3 to 4 years of training and Heaven knows how many years of experience, dedication and expertise. It means bigger classes and less attention for individual learners. It means hundreds of children suffering from a loss of quality of education. And why? Nowhere on the all-knowing internet can I find an answer, except that it is part of the current government programme of cuts to public services. It is just ‘the cuts.’ Yet nowhere can I find our march reported, although it will probably get a page in the local paper out on Thursday.

The following questions arise; are the squabbles of politicians and success or failure of singing contests of more relevance and importance to our future that the compromising of our future itself and that of our children? There were lots of children at the protest who will be here when I and all the big names in politics are long gone, and what kind of a world will they inhabit if we take away from them the chance of a decent education?

So let’s put personalities and media distortions and lies to one side and look at real policies that will shape our lives and those of our children. Let’s behave like educated and intelligent human beings. Let’s make a sensible and informed choice. Let’s write the story of the future with imagination, compassion and foresight and not with prejudice and gullibility and fear. Let’s stand up and tell the stories that matter loud and clear.

Reading Week

Oh dear! nothing too hefty tome-ish to report. I read detective stories a lot, especially when I have insomnia …nuff said!

Hare in the headlights

Last Wednesday I attended the launch at UCLAN of the catalogue of the exhibition ‘A Potter, a Painter and a Poet.’ There is a long story attached to this which I will tell my next blog. Suffice it to say for now that I am helping to organise  an event here in Lancaster to celebrate the legacy of the poet, Elizabeth Burns, who died in August 2015.

More on this very soon

It used to be the number 9 bus

My Writing Life

You wait all winter for the poetry festivals to come along and then in March they all come together, just like the buses from Hammersmith to Mortlake that I used to wait for after a night  out or a ate rehearsal long ago when I lived in London.  Sadly, it is not the number 9 anymore … same route though, I looked it up.

A small group of tired people, we would wait at the bus stop on Hammersmith Broadway and then just after eleven o’clock the number 9’s would all come along at once. If I got on the last of the line of buses I was often the only person left by the time we got to Barnes and I would sit leaning against the window looking through out my own transparent reflection, watching the bright lights of Chiswick, a promised land across the dark water of the River Thames.

The Stanza festival now seems a long time ago, and, of the Lancaster Litfest, in March, the my best memory is the evening of poetry shared by Kim Moore and Hannah Lowe. The Litfest itself was well attended and interesting, and how wonderful to see it revived at last and the evening with these two women poets was outstanding.  It seemed that they had some kind of connection with each other, whether in their political preoccupations or their imaginations. This sense of connection gave the reading a particular and satisfying coherence.

Since then there has been the April Poets in late March, here in Lancaster, and the more recent Feminist Poetry Jamboree at Ulverston. This latter was a timely reminder that politics is not only about Brexit and Trump, although they both got a mention of course, as they continue to preoccupy us as individuals, to dominate conversations, and to linger in the sense of uncertainty tinged with fear with which we listen to the news each day.

By the time we get to the Kendal Poetry Festival, (16th to 18th June) this year we will have had the General Election. Last year the first ever festival started the day after the referendum and we were all reeling with the shock.

I wonder if this year we will feel, as a relatively small group of poets and writers gathered together, as I used to feel those dark nights long ago, that the promised land of our sane and liberal democracy is over the other side of a dark river and we are on the last bus home; but at least we will not be travelling alone.

My reading week(s)

Lots of reading, and not much blogging recently; I have just read Days Without End by Sebastian Barry for my reading group discussion tomorrow. It is a wonderful book, and even the gory bits, and my goodness they are gory, are all woven into the thread of the story. It is one of those books that looks at the great events of history from the intimate perspective of a small group of individuals, caught up in what is happening around them, and, unlike the reader, not able to understand the full significance of what is happening.

A very different joy and delight was re-reading Carl Ann Duffy’s collection Bees while on holiday a couple of weeks ago.

Hare in the Headlights

There have been a couple of these recently because after months of not airing my poetry I have done two open mics, recently at April Poets and at the Feminist Jamboree. Not as scary as it might have been and the poetry was well received. Hoping soon to start sending stuff out to magazines.

Till soon

 

 

Fest-Blog 1

The first of a series that will become a Blog-Fest!

My Writing Life

Ok, I am still slightly dizzy after two days at Stanza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival at St Andrew’s a week ago. Now I have had time to digest and feel able to share some of the highlights over the next two blog posts.  The festival itself was five days and I packed as much poetry as I could into less than half the time.  I felt quite proud at the end of Thursday having heard 8 poets in a day.

The themes this year were ‘Roads’ and ‘Heights,’ so there were lots of ( usually quite hairy) mountaineering  and rock climbing poets and many travellers from as far apart as Iceland and Syria. Since returning I have been reflecting on the way that poets often have another activity that they devote a lot of time and energy to as well as their writing and which they often seem to find a wellspring of imagination and inspiration for their work. It is not so much that mountaineering poets write about mountains, although they do, but also that they find the act of climbing the mountains a source for the energy needed for their work and the way they approach it.

I garden as well as writing and for me gardening is an opportunity to empty my mind and do physical things quite routinely after which I can return to my desk refreshed.

The first reading I went to on Thursday was the first in a regular Stanza series, Border Crossings and featured the work of David Wilson, a climber and Janette Ayachi, a traveller. I bought David’s book Slope but unfortunately Janette had run out of copies, or I would have bought it as well. I loved Janette’s excitement about travelling to new places, and David quiet humour linked with metaphors of mountains. A really good beginning to the day.

The lunchtime session that came next could not have been more of contrast , with the noir of Steven Watt up against the lyrical gay love poetry of Katherine McMahon and both of them contemporary and immediate in their concerns. They are two young poets of contrasting ideas and presentation and both a joy to listen to. Their session was poetry lunch with a pie and a drink included in the price of the ticket.

Thus sustained I went on poets five and six of the day. I another very different session of Border Crossings.  We heard from Maram Almaasri from Syria and Paul Stevenson who is British but lives in Paris. Both these readings reduced me and most of the audience either to tears, or certainly to feeling very choked up. Paul’s pamphlet was an account of the days after the Paris attacks and Maram’s poems reflecting the sad and desperate situation of her country.

Last and the highlight of the whole day, and for me of the whole festival, was the evening reading by Alice Oswald. Sold out as you can imagine, she held two hundred people listening in gripped silence for 45 minutes and wanting more at the end. I have struggled with her latest collection Falling Awake which I was given for Christmas,  on the page, but from listening to her reading from it I  learned that I should  read it slowly and not too much at a time, as a kind of meditation. Truly wonderful!

You will all have to wait until next time for the second day of Stanza and for the booklet launch of my autumn writers group. So watch this space

My reading week

I finished Alan Bennett’s Keeping On Keeping On while still in St Andrews and particularly enjoyed his collected essays about his plays and their productions included in the second half. I am afraid it is detective stories now as the holidays approach!

Hare n the Headlights

I chickened out of reading at the open mic. at stanza, but got my courage together for the April poets this week, of which more next time.