Living the Dream – the T.S.Eliot Readings

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Last weekend I had a go at Living The Dream  – I decided to swan off to London to go to the T.S.Eliot readings.  By splitting the train journey up, I got a return train ticket to London for 48 quid – unfortunately this involved me having about twenty different tickets. 

My friend Jill Abram, who I met on a Second Light course in August, offered to put me up for the night, and was also very keen to go to the readings.  When it turned out the readings were the same weekend as her birthday, it was deemed necessary to go to a spa hotel the night before.  Well I couldn’t not go, could I?

So Saturday afternoon saw me having a swim in the swimming pool (first time in years) and then a massage, and then a meal, meeting Jill’s other lovely friends on the  way… and then Sunday morning we went to a butterfly park.  I didn’t mention that I used to be scared of butterflies – I didn’t realy want to admit to this – but when I got in there, and realised that they were big as birds – literally – and not particularly shy – I realised I would have to come clean – unfortunately before I could I ran like a big baby when one fluttered into my face.

Anyway, after that, it was a drive back to Jill’s, a quick change and then off to the T.S.Eliot readings – I was so excited when we arrived and saw lots of people milling around the bar.  It’s so different to a normal poetry reading – the main difference being, there is an audience of 2,000.  It reminded me of being in the butterfly park and the poets were like the butterflys – I spotted Ruth Padel (we were ordering a drink at the same time), spoke to lovely Michael Symmons Roberts, who was my tutor at MMU and a lovely, lovey chap – I saw Paul Stephenson who is on the Poetry Business Writing School with me – but I didn’t say hello because he’d disappeared by the time I’d finished my conversation – Jo Bell and Martin Malone, Karen McCarthy Woolf and Malika Booker – Jill gave them a lift back – I love their energy and passion for poetry…and lots of others – long conversation with Zaffar Kunial and lots of other people that I’m sure I’ve forgotten about temporarily.

And then the readings!  I travelled down to London on the train with Sharon Olds as my firm favourite – I loved her book ‘Stags Leap’ – sometimes I felt sick when I was reading it – such raw grief, yet not raw in an uncontrolled way – but so honest, brutally honest, yet without any bitterness, and she must be a better person than me, because I think bitterness would definately creep into my poems about my husband leaving me for another woman, even fifteen years after the event.   Anyway, on the way down, I read Jorie Graham – and really enjoyed that as well – because of her long lines, there is a strange sensation of trying to hang on to the idea, or concept at the beginning of the line. 

And then Kathleen Jamie and Jacob Polley read, and became my favourites – Jacob got the only spontaneous round of applause of the evening.  But Sharon Olds is so lovely in person – she has this grace and calmness which she carries with her.  So I am glad she won, and the whole night was wonderful.  I think I might be addicted to going now though – which could turn out expensive!

Anyway, living the dream for the weekend, meant walking back from the train station in Barrow on Sunday, and being attacked, yes, attacked, by a random hail storm.  All my neighbours were standing on the doorsteps laughing at it and at me, trudging down the street. 

And living the dream also has meant being absolutely worn out this week – I’ve had ten entries to get ready for the Music Festival in Ulverston this week and a workshop to plan for Leeds Writer’s Circle about Starting to Publish in magazines.  I’m now worrying about whether I’m going to be able to get over there though through all the snow…

and now I REALLY need to send my poem in for the ‘Penning Perfumes’ event – I’m a day late, and I REALLY need to finish the poem for my friend’s wedding – and I keep getting distracted by the new issue of Poetry London, which has a fantastic poem by Ian Duhig on the very first page, which I keep going back too…

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3 responses »

  1. It was fantastic, wasn’t it? I thought it might have been the best of several T S Eliot Prize readings I’ve now been to. I largely agree with your assessment, too! Sharon Olds was my favourite and I am delighted that she won, but on the basis of the evening I would almost have picked Jacob Polley… I’ve also written an account on my blog.

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