Notes from Cardiff Poetry Festival

I was in Cardiff all weekend at the first poetry festival there (according to publicity but this seems astonishing, if true!) organised by Seren Books.  I posted pictures over at my Instagram  and here are a few snippets from my notebook.  I enjoyed most of the festival, some readings more than others, inevitably.  I was very pleased to hear Gillian Clarke read and I was able to shake her hand and tell her about my Great Great Grandfather on my mother’s side, who was a Lighthouse Keeper in Anglesey.

How kind of Gillian Clarke to look me in the eye and to seem genuinely interested and delighted by my story (she must hear this sort of thing all the time!)  It came as no surprise to hear her say that she replies to letters she receives from readers from around the world, she strikes me as being that kind of person.

Some of the questions I get from schoolchildren have changed my own understanding of my own poems.

I also really enjoyed a conversation between Dai George and Gwyneth Lewis which was (loosely) about differences across generations writing poetry.

Bloodaxe Poet Gyneth Lewis and Seren Poet Dai George, reading and in conversation – an excellent event!

I wanted more of their discussion and more of their poems.  A couple of snippets from my notebook:

This from GL, talking about measuring compatibility and hostilities between writers who’ve gone before you:

The poems you hate are just as important as the ones you love.


There are so many generations of poets, you pick your own descent.

Jonathan Edwards opened the festival on Friday evening with an assured, witty and entertaining reading.

This is the first poetry festival I’ve attended which has provided enough food to feed my entire family for a week.

Seren Poet Jonathan Edwards

It’s pretty unusual (in my experience) to read a poet who writes with so much humour.  Edwards put this down, in part, to his being from a long line of Welsh Valley butchers who used to

..stand in the doorway and laugh customers into the shop.

Jonathan Edwards also talked about the writing process and about rejection being a ‘gift’.  This adage was admired and repeated by many other poets and festival goers over the weekend, in particular by HappenStance poet Stephen Payne who said that it made him feel “particularly gifted.”

HappenStance poet Stephen Payne

Payne gave an excellent, engaging, polished reading on Saturday morning in the New Poets’ Showcase, as did David Foster Morgan, Emily Blewitt, Katherine Stansfield and Susie Wild, pictured below.

There were many other events I enjoyed, apologies for not including all of them here!  A few more snippets over on Instagram.

It was a particularly busy poetry weekend in the UK and Ireland, with Birmingham’s Verve Poetry and Spoken Word Festival, and the Cork International Poetry Festival, taking place at the same time.  As always at these sort of gatherings, it was great to unexpectedly meet old friends and friends from the internet who I’m now able to say are friends in real life.  A busy weekend, though, and now I’m glad to be home with a few extra books.

4 thoughts on “Notes from Cardiff Poetry Festival”

  1. I read about this festival and would have loved to attend. I’m a Gillian Clarke admirer and have a few of her books. As I live on the opposite end of the planet, it was lovely of you to take me there! Thank you very much!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Josephine – I’m glad you enjoyed the Cardiff Poetry Festival. I can’t believe it’s the first either, but I’ve racked my brains and cannot remember a previous one, though there have been plenty of literature festivals, eisteddfodau and “poems and pints” over the years. I would love to have met you but I couldn’t get along to it because of other commitments. That was a pity as I’m on a poetry reading and writing course at the moment with Welsh poet Mab Jones. It’s opened up an interest for me that’s lain dormant for decades, I’m really enjoying it. Gillian Clarke is lovely, isn’t she? She does wonderfully inspiring workshops for children – my 43 year old step-daughter still talks about the time she visited her school and encouraged them to write poems!

    Liked by 1 person

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