The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde

Small disasters and stilted conversations

A busy week, a long blog…. National Poetry Day has been and gone, and with it a year’s preparation and sweat for its co-ordinator (me). As the credit crunch continues, our theme of ‘work’ seemed well chosen: it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good. We made Radio 3 and 4, the One Show, the BBC Breakfast show, the front page of the Grauniad’s Work supplement etc etc…
There was a poetry marathon in Liverpool, a poetic petrol station in Cumbria, a scrapbook competition, a virtual festival from Ledbury Poetry Festival, and a Purple Poetry event in Shetland (prize for the best purple outfit!). Radio Ulster went poetry mad and devoted a week of programming to poetic content, even in their religious and sports broadcasts. Hallelujah.
Paul Farley and Martín Espada had a livelier than expected ‘flagship’ NPD reading in Liverpool. To our dismay, Martín

Paul Farley recovers from NPD

Paul Farley recovers from NPD

spent the afternoon in casualty with a possible heart murmur, but he manfully went on to deliver his reading. Disaster averted, we thought. Then a tired and emotional lady leapt up onto the stage and read one of his own poems for him. A lesser man would have keeled over on the spot. The event closed NPD with a flourish, and launched the Bluecoat’s promising Chapter and Verse festival. Now we start preparing and sweating over National Poetry Day 2009 – theme Heroes and Heroines.

The next evening I went to hail the conquering hero Harry Owen, former Bunch of Fives colleague who is back from South Africa to launch his Five Books of Marriage. And then, the epic journey to Chelmsford for the Essex Poetry Festival where Patience Agbabi, who reads with great poise and passion, was due to read after me. Another small disaster (poorly little boy) meant she had to swap places, and I had to follow her fantastic reading. Bugger. Hold your nerve, I said to myself. They seemed to like me. I stayed with friends Derek and Dolly, fans of surrealism. There was a nose on the ceiling of the living room.

The Forward Poetry Prizes were awarded this week, with yet another small disaster in tow. The first collection prize went to Kathryn Simmonds: the main prize to Scottish poet (and MND sufferer, an illness familiar to this blog) Mick Imlah: the best single poem to Don Paterson: and the prize for Fainting at the Ceremony and Being Taken Away in an Ambulance to Simon Thirsk of Bloodaxe. It was a pleasure to retreat to the abode of small friend Tilly

Tilly goes underground....

Tilly goes underground....

(see below – no small children were harmed in the making of this image).


Mixing with the literati is clearly dangerous so at a conference in the New Art Exchange, Nottingham, I was relieved to meet James McPherson, a tightrope walker/ stilt walker/ circus type geezer with the Artizani street theatre company. As we are gathering ideas for Fourpenny Circus this was a fantastic opportunity. The poor man agreed that we can come and see him fly through the air with the greatest of ease. Let’s hope the poetry curse doesn’t follow us and cause another small disaster…



This entry was posted on October 12, 2008 by in Writing exercises.
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