Afternoon all – this is just a short blog post to reassure anybody that is wondering that I am still alive after my two week absence from blogging. I don’t need to know if you didn’t notice – you can keep that to yourself!
Normal service will resume next Sunday with a new poem from Billy Letford’s forthcoming collection. How exciting is that?? But until then, you will have to content yourself with the stories of my travels which are about to unfold.
I’ve just got back from Ledbury Poetry Festival – I was reading as part of the Versopolis European poetry reading, alongside poets from England, Norway, France, Wales, Croatia and Germany. The photo attached to this post was taken after our reading – just Daljit Nagra is missing as he had to dash off home. It was a wonderful reading to be part of and I feel very lucky to have been chosen by Ledbury Poetry Festival to be one of the UK poets involved, especially given recent events – Versopolis is funded with EU cash, and the project gives young ’emerging’ poets the opportunity to go abroad to European festivals. Here’s hoping that the project continues to grow and develop, as it has been a wonderful thing to be part of.
I also ran a workshop at the festival, and took part in a reading to launch Hwaet!, an anthology published by Bloodaxe to celebrate 20 years of Ledbury Poetry Festival. I’m really excited to be in a Bloodaxe anthology – have never been in one before, and with a poem about scaffolding, that most noble of occupations!
Ledbury is unique in its huge network of volunteers and supporters drawn from the town. My host was a lovely lady, J who was also hosting two interns at the festival. J whizzed me up and down to the town all weekend, stopped me falling down the stairs one morning and has got me addicted to plain croissants with jam, instead of my usual chocolate croissant.
There were two many highlights to list them all, but perhaps the one that stuck most in my mind was the reading and discussion with Mark Doty and Andrew McMillan. Instead of a normal reading where each poet takes it in turns, one read a poem and then the other responded, on the theme of Desire. Andrew was very open about the influence that Mark Doty has had on his own writing, and I wondered if this format of reading poems in response to each other would work with other pairs of poets. This was also the only reading where I cried – Mark Doty read a particular poem about his partner, who was dying, reaching out a hand to his dog, and I just started crying. I’ve read that poem before to myself, and never cried before, it was something about being in that room and hearing it in his voice, and the honesty with which both poets spoke.
By the time I got to Ledbury I was feeling a bit like a zombie. I’d had a five hour train journey to get there, and the woman sitting next to me was not feeling well and ended up throwing up all over the train, narrowly missing my suitcase. The train was packed and there was nowhere to get away from the vomit. I spent the next couple of hours panicking I was going to catch a sick germ and puke up in the middle of my reading. So far, I can report I am healthy.
I was feeling like a zombie because the weekend before Ledbury, we had the Kendal Poetry Festival! It was a great weekend – all of the events were sold out, and there was a lovely atmosphere. It was pretty exhausting though, and straight afterwards I had some visitors from Ireland who had been attending the festival. The husband and I borrowed my twin sister’s camper van so our guests could have a bedroom each, and so we could have a living room to sit in.
We all went to Dove Cottage on Monday for a day trip out. Tuesday and Wednesday I was back at work, probably in a bit of a daze, and as I told my Year 3 class on Tuesday morning, without brushing my hair as I couldn’t find the hairbrush in the camper van! The kids didn’t seem to mind. On Wednesday my Irish friends went back to Ireland and I spent Wednesday night after I finished teaching at 7pm, in a mild state of panic, planning two workshops that I was due to run the next day.
The first was for a meeting of English teachers in Penrith and the second was the next session of my Poetry School course in Manchester. I ended up going to bed at about 1am, but with everything planned and printed out. So my Thursday consisted of the morning in Penrith, a drive down the motorway to Manchester, met up with an old friend for coffee and then my Poetry School course in Manchester. I then drove back home, and planned and printed out my workshop for Ledbury at about midnight.
I set off for Ledbury early Friday morning. It has been really full-on, but very enjoyable. In amongst all that, I’ve had two bits of good news. I’ve had two of my ‘All the Men I Never Married Poems’ accepted for publication in Poetry Ireland Review, so I’m really pleased about that. So that is six of them that have been, or will be published now! My other bit of good news is that starting in September I’ll be doing some teaching for a couple of terms at Manchester Metropolitan University as well as starting my PhD there.
I’m really excited, and nervous about both the PhD and the teaching, but I’ve been doing this for long enough now to know that this feeling of excitement and nerves usually means good things. This Wednesday I’m off to the award ceremony for the Lakeland Book of the Year – my book has been shortlisted, and although I’m not expecting my rather slim volume of poetry to win, I thought I would go and enjoy the afternoon anyway.