The Swindon Festival of Literature has a thing for bracing days, ya know – freezing brass monkeys. It kicks off at a cold dawn in May and Thursday, a biting March day you may have noticed, was the launch, outside in a windy Swindon Central Library atrium.
The Festival likes to stimulate ‘thinking parts’ so maybe all this chilly fresh air enables our brain to fully engage and not lie indolent in the sloth-like embrace of central heating.
So, back inside the warm library, I munched on the lovely homemade launch food and thought how good it is when politicians speak from the heart rather than generic politic speak. Matt Holland, Festival director, seemed to appreciate this too because he expressed his love for guest speaker, Teresa Page, the mayor of Swindon: for her, Swindon is the town with the heart of a city; she only had one book a year at Christmas (a present from her sister); and (a girl after my own heart) she also enjoyed comics Bunty and Judy. No tired ‘cultural desert’ metaphors for the Lady Mayor. Continue reading
That sounds fun, I thought, about being a man for a day. But I didn’t expect it to be such a challenge.
I don’t mean keeping the boobs flat (damn bandages kept rolling up), or keeping my ‘penis’ in place, or even perfecting the man’s walk when, essentially, a woman’s hips are different to a man’s.
Yes, these were annoying but all the women poets taking part in Diane Torr’s Man for a Day (Swindon Festival of Poetry) had these problems and it created a certain comradeship between us.
No, what was hard was knowing what kind of man I wanted to be. And this journey – for a while at least – was a lonely one. Did I want to be myself, but male? Did I want to be a man I admired? Or a man I didn’t?
This year’s poetry competition didn’t quite go to the moon and back but they certainly made it to the other side of the world.
Judges David Morley and Cristina Navazo-Eguia Newton both took the entries on their travels. On the plane to Australia, David shared the poems around the passengers and asked them to read the poems aloud. Cristina took hers to her native Spain.
A good proportion of the winning pieces were about birds. “I’ve got a feeling some of the entrants researched my interests,” remarked David who’s into ornithology. Continue reading
As an English white woman, I wouldn’t describe Saturday’s event – The Evening News and The Roof of the World – as a culture shock (far too gentle for that) but it was a beautifully different experience.
The spoken poetry on Saturday was in Hindi by Mohan Rana. There were no English subtitles, but this didn’t matter. I opened my mind to it like I would music or dance; a different way of understanding, enjoying the musicality of the language.
To emphasis this and compliment the poetry, Mohan had invited his friend, ‘cellist Jo Quail, to perform alongside him. Jo had previously interpreted his poem The Colour of Water (From the Sea).