The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde

The Macclesfield Mistral

I don’t know about an economic recession, but I’m beginning to think there is a cultural one. The summer feast at AllSeasons, a workshop at Little Moreton workshop and now even my splendid all-day workshop at Ellesmere Port with Kate Noakes have been cancelled due to low ticket sales. An evening of readings with Joy Winkler got only a tiny audience – though we enjoyed it – and I begin to empathise with the person who wrote on their ‘tell us about Macclesfield’ postcard that they saw it as  ‘a cultural desert, devoid of aspiration’.


Have the poetry fans of the North West all spontaneously decided they hate me? Possible, but statistically unlikely. Have they all gone on holiday at once? Ditto. More likely, the endless rain (currently falling at Force 2, ‘notes written in felt tip become blurry’) has at last driven them mad; and like those affected by the maddening Mistral winds in France, they are all gibbering quietly into their notebooks. As you see, small friend Iggi has already gone past the point of no return – here he is with new bath toys plastered all over his face.




One event that was a success was the sonnet trail. Joy Winkler and I had written a series of poems for the Macclesfield Cultural Festival, about landmarks in the town. We took a few hardy, waterproof souls on a walk and poeted at them in rain which ranged from Force 3 – ‘hesitation in using umbrella’ to Force 7 – ‘People take shelter in MacDonalds. Rain from umbrella pours down neck’. They seemed to like it very much, and so did we. Sometimes you don’t know what you know about a place, until you get the opportunity to pass it on.


Likewise you don’t know how little you know, until you talk to others. Deep in planning for the Companion Stones project (mentioned a couple of weeks ago), I went to ‘meet’ my stone with the artist Kate Genever and Ann Atkinson. We had a good long conversation at the walker’s pub Fox House, to hammer out ideas. If a problem shared is a problem halved, an idea shared is an idea doubled: we’re going back on Wednesday and things will start coming together soon.


Deep joy – Martin Espada has agreed to read alongside our poet in residence Paul Farley on National Poetry Day. This seems like extreme over-payment for me running him to the station after Ledbury Poetry Festival, but who am I to complain?




This entry was posted on July 20, 2008 by in Writing exercises.
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