A busy November has given way to a quiet December but my growing collection of new poems is demanding attention so the blog is being neglected. I’ve written about 20 new poems that I’m reasonably pleased with. Many more will likely never see in the New Year. My editing knives have been sharpened.
November began with a weekend by the sea in Aldeburgh for the Poetry in Aldeburgh Festival. I had such a great time last year (when I was invited to read) that I decided to return as an audience member this year. I volunteered as an usher in return for tickets to events.
Highlights for me included hearing Niall Campbell read – I’ve loved his poems since his first pamphlet with HappenStance in 2012 and it was wonderful to hear poems I know fairly well read aloud. Kathyrn Maris was another poet I loved hearing read. I find her work sharp, edgy, daring. I loved her plainspoken, not-showy performance. Another event I valued a lot was hearing artist Maggi Hambling talking about her life and work. I hadn’t intended to stay for this reading (I was going to slip away for a break once I’d done my ushering bit) but I found myself rooted to my seat as Hambling spoke. There were loads more events I loved, and I had the added bonus of sharing a gorgeous house with a lovely friend (Lisa Kelly) so I came away from the seaside feeling refreshed in every way.
I went to two events featuring Alice Oswald in November, the first being her inaugural lecture as Professor of Poetry at Oxford University. The title of the lecture was ‘The Art of Erosion’ and Oswald asked the audience to think about the “livingness” of a poem rather than its “lastingness”. She read us poems by Thomas Wyatt and by Robert Herrick, repeating each poem at least twice, and reading slowly so that our ears absorbed the experience of the poem.
Alice Oswald also took part in a panel discussion about Anne Carson at Spike Island Arts Space in Bristol.
Some quotes from my notebook: “She wants to forbid us from knowing who she is.” “Poetry is language that includes silence.” “You have to read her like a bible… believe what she says..” “she’s a philosopher, a hybrid between philosophy and poetry…” (AO)
“She keeps reshaping the form of what she’s writing.” (LJ)
“There’s a pleasure in not yielding to all the references (in AC’s writing)” (RK)
In November, I also enjoyed a reading by Daljit Nagra in Bristol. Nagra asked the audience to think about what a ‘British voice’ is – “who is the ‘we’?” he asked – a good question!
The month was rounded off with a reading organised by Mathew Stewart and Mat Riches in London (and a chance to hear a lot of poets read, including Katy Evans-Bush, Clarissa Aykroyd, Rishi Dastidar, Rory Waterman, Robin Houghton, Ramona Herdman, Neil Elder, Mathew and Mat), and poetry workshop at John of Gaunt School, in Trowbridge, with a super bright group of Year 9 students who wrote poems responding the climate crisis. I was so impressed with how informed and passionate the students were.
For now, back to my poems.