"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde
Ledbury Poetry Festival finished its ten-day run with a flourish of brilliant readings from American poets Martín Espada, Jon Andersen and Fred Voss – and even with a swirl of embroidered cuff from the Town Cryer, who announced the events with great panache.
During the week I returned to the Glorious North, working on National Poetry Day and confirming visits for Paul Farley, our NPD poet in residence. Sometimes my work involves just sitting on the sofa with a cup of tea and a pile of books, searching out poems to fit a particular theme. In this case I was looking for summery poems, and swotting up on the history of Macclesfield.
Back at Ledbury though, Marcus Moore and Sara-Jane Arbury, the king and queen of slam, ran their usual high standard of hilarious poetry slam for us. A lot of people left saying those magic words, ‘I don’t normally come to this sort of thing but I will now.’ William Sieghart, the onlie true begetter of National Poetry Day, spoke on the state of poetry today; Aoife Mannix and Luke Wright brought us their poetry roadshows; we were altogether saturated in great poetry events. The whole programme served to remind me that good poetry, whatever its style or format, will always find a receptive audience so long as it tells the truth. I found this expressed beautifully in Bloodaxe’s new anthology In Person, where Taha Muhammad Ali’s poem Twigs includes the lines:
it has taken me
all of sixty years
that water is the finest drink,
and bread the most delicious food,
and that art is worthless
unless it plants
a measure of splendor in people’s hearts.