"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde
Blimey, what a week – the busiest of the year. First, to Birmingham Book Festival for Radio 4’s UK Slam final, where I am described by a fellow judge as a ‘human glitterball’. Maybe sequinned boots AND a sequinned waistcoat was too much.
The head-to-head was between Ben Mellor’s straight slam poetry – funny, immediate – and Mark Madden’s masterful, uncompromisingly poetic work. It was a very close finish but Ben was a worthy winner, and Mark a graceful runner-up.
At the Forward Prize for Poetry, the nation’s finest poets gathered in one spot. It occurred to me that if a bomb hit Somerset House then a) it would wipe out most of our poetic talent and b) no-one would notice. I stayed with small friends Wee Tilly and Iggy the Cosmonaut.
As its co-ordinator, National Poetry Day is the focus of my whole working year. It dawned bright and early at the annual Poetry Breakfast opposite St Paul’s. I went to the Foyle Young Poet of the Year announcement at the Festival Hall – then National Poetry Day Live! in the same building with Carol Ann Duffy,
Roger McGough, Lemn Sissay, John Hegley and Dreadlockalien – and looked at the Poetry Society’s record-breaking knitted poem. Finally, to a Heroes and Heroines themed event in the National Portrait Gallery, with Polly Clark and the veteran Dannie Abse.
Elsewhere there were hundreds of events across the UK – it felt like a really good NPD and I was chuffed to bits. Back at the Macclesfield Sculpture Park, I settled into post-NPD exhaustion and enjoyed our new chainsaw art.
My rosy glow of smugness was shattered by a series of downright abusive emails about David Cameron who appeared a little too prominently on the NPD website. I was cheered by news that the Poetraits exhibition by Graham Kershaw, including a portrait and video of me alongside Polarbear, Charlie Jordan and others, has opened in Birmingham Central Library. It’s possible that you have better things to do than go to Birmingham to gaze upon these, but take a squint at the video.
To stave off the anticlimax, I did a reading at Nantwich library of my own work which went really well – then I got on a train to Chelmsford for Essex Poetry Festival, where I announced the winners of the poetry competition. It’s a great festival with a brilliant line-up – highlights were the stable of poets published by Tall Lighthouse, including Brendan Cleary and Alan Buckley, and a stunning performance by John Hartley Williams. He’s clearly an old hand and a big name, but I had not been aware of him at all. His work was moving, exciting, challenging, and he was funny, talented, confident in delivering it. I stayed with Derek and Dolly who have obviously been pushed over the edge by the demands of the festival….
And so I returned to the Smily Man, who is splendidly tolerant of my blue-arsed-fly lifestyle. As his girlfriend rushes from one end of the country to the other, full of adrenalin and poetical gobshite, a lesser man would be put out. Smily Man, however, sees my absence as a welcome chance to fix the chimney/ sand the roof/ get some peace and quiet. In fact is it possible that he finds it a bit of a relief?