"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde
Lots of pics this week, not always in the right place (this being WordPress… ) On Tuesday I was at the Do the Right Thing conference on domestic violence to read a commission, as did the splendid John Hegley (who’ll also be at the Big Chill next month). I did my usual conference trick – a piece composed of delegates’ responses to a single question (in this case, ‘what makes you say YES YES YES?’)
The audience response to a poem they essentially wrote themselves was moving and moved. Musicians Belinda and Heidi did a knock-out (sorry) song at the conference too – see you at Larmer Tree Festival, chaps.
The event was warm and welcoming – full of support, discussion and laughter, with not a furrowed brow nor a mention of patriarchal paradigms amongst us. I ran a brief workshop, and was gobsmacked by the survivors’ courage in tackling their demons. Thanks to Graham of Do the Right Thing for a neat and powerful programme.
The climax of the week was the beginning of Ledbury Poetry Festival, where I’m a trustee. From the very first reading this has been one of our finest programmes, and there is still a week to go – come and see some life-changing poetry in our ridiculously English market town. Zena Edwards and Polarbear (the jazz quartet, not the poet of that name) were remarkable. Alice Oswald’s Sleepwalk on the Severn performance was atmospheric – and Patience Agbabi and Phillip Wells were uplifting, empowering and tear-jerking by turns.
With days still to go, in the ‘relatively straight-faced’ corner we have already heard Eilean ni Chullainain, Ruth Padel, Eva Salzman and a handful of Polish poets. In the ‘magnificently silly’ corner we saw Shedman return with his poetry shed, and Sally Crabtree on her Sofa of Love in the market place, serenading everyone from passing toddlers to the local community policeman. Even the shop windows were full of poetry – like this chocolate shop.
Marcus Moore and Sara-Jane Arbury gave us a splendid slam, and Neil Astley of Bloodaxe advised would-be published poets on getting into print. In the midst of it all came the mouth-watering food market, enjoyed by all.
On the High Street was the Poetry Pod, a little caravan whose visitors included national treasure Roger McGough.
For a brief while we mislaid all the children on the ghost walk – we must have been looking straight through them – but rediscovered them in the graveyard, listening to spooky tales from a friendly vampire. In between all the events, our heroic grips dashed from one event to another lugging A-boards, chairs, cases of wine and walkie-talkies with never a grumble.
And there’s more…. we await with bated breath the arrival of po-in-res Daljit Nagra, and on Saturday we welcome Benjamin Zephaniah. In the meantime the grips dared me to shave my head. I almost obliged, with a very short back and sides.
I managed a couple of early-morning hops in the boat this week too, moving Tinker from one 48 hour mooring to the next. On the way I completed my first solo set of locks! This filled me with pride, except for the bit where I did something silly and nearly took my eye out.
I can’t help noticing that if I turn right, rather than left, at Wolverhampton, I will find myself in the very interesting waters of Staffordshire and Gloucestershire. My planned Four Counties Ring looks like becoming the Ten Counties Marathon….