The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde

Come on in…

Welcome sign, Ashbourne

Ah, hello. Do come in. Life is still sickeningly good, which is why my blogs are getting longer. I promise to get unhappier and more succinct soon.

Meanwhile, to That London on National Poetry Day business – and to read  a couple of pomes at the legendary Troubadour club. I was one of many voices from the new edition of esteemed journal Magma (popular on the towpath, see photo).

Well-read ducks

Well-read ducks

The audience looked like my poetry CV. There were friends I met on Arvon courses; people who first gave me work in professional poetry; excellent poets including Alison Brackenbury, Clive McWilliams and Anne Caldwell; and others I knew or half-knew. The poetry was good, but after twenty readings we all began to sound a little earnest. I whispered to friend Daljit that I wanted to lower the tone a bit. ‘Oh don’t worry,’ he said, ‘you’ll do that!’

Iggy and Tilly and me

Iggy and Tilly and me

New friend Isobel is not two weeks old, but already looks like a person of  firmly-held opinions. Big sister Tilly is learning to cope with power-sharing, and still has my heart clenched firmly in her jammy fists. The temporary insecurity is painful to see, but at least we passing grown-ups get more cuddles. I was unimpressed when my own siblings arrived – but honestly Tilly, it became bearable by the time they were thirty.

I stayed in Little Venice, full of little boats and the smell of jasmine, with friends Ruth and Toad.Ruth and Toad

Back upcountry to Cheshire, for a summer food event at Neston. It was one of my finer ideas to suggest readings celebrating local food – pie-makers, fine vegetable suppliers and ice cream makers came together in the library to whet our appetites. The spirit of my father was with me. He travelled everywhere with a tube of Colman’s mustard in search of the Perfect Pork Pie, and I think I found it on the stall of Hamilton Barnes. Is it just me or do they sound like a Cold War spy?

The name's Barnes. Hamilton Barnes.

The name's Barnes. Hamilton Barnes.

There followed a day or two of writing on commissions in the sunshine, meeting new boating faces including John Boy, a proper boater in disguise as a twelve-year-old. Then – ta-dah! a day’s boating up Audlem locks with friends, including a spirit-of-the-blitz barbecue at the top.

More sausages please

More sausages please

The weekend brought the perfect gig: reading in a scented garden by the river Dove with Ann Atkinson, as part of Ashbourne Festival. The audience grinned and sighed in all the right places,

The Great British Poetry Audience, IV

The Great British Poetry Audience, IV

and the organisers invited us to the Brodsky Quartet concert afterwards (breathtaking). I stopped over in Ann’s lovely Grindleford house, pausing only to take advantage of her washing machine and shower. What patient friends I do have.

Ann Atkinson - patient poet

Ann Atkinson - patient poet

I sometimes fear that this wonderful life will be snatched away from me. The recording angel will turn up and say ‘Oh I’m sorry, you’ve been given the wrong life. YOU should be working in a warehouse in Grimsby, and your life will now be handed back to this more deserving person.’ Do me a favour – if you see that angel, don’t tell him which way I went.

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This entry was posted on June 29, 2009 by in Uncategorized.
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