Swindon Festival of Poetry – a starry start

4 Oct

So the first Swindon Festival of Poetry kicked off this morning with Poetry Aloud in the Central Library’s Cafe.

(I love cafes in libraries. So much better than of old when it was all about being quiet and grabbing a book and leaving.)

It was a quiet, friendly start to proceedings, with a muster of enthusiasts listening and contributing to the poetry readings, both own and famous contributions.

Then it was off to the library’s poetry space gearing up for the BlueGate poet’s slot.

Both events got in the spirit of National Poetry Day and its theme of ‘stars’, and – as always – some interesting stories.

Bob Johnson, who treated us to his political poems, told us that he’d only been writing for a little while. He’d got into it through writing rhymes in greetings cards for loved ones. From a Valentine’s message (‘you are my Mona Lisa’) to agitation of the Coalition Government in a few short years.

Susan Utterly was the first of two readers to quote Oscar Wilde: “We’re all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.” Her first poem described how her mother would forgo the shelters during World War One air raids and instead lie in the garden looking at the stars, enjoying the death-defying excitement.

Swindon-based award-winning poet Cristina Newton read from her new Templar published anthology ‘Cry Wolf’. When I congratulated her on her first official book, she looked less thrilled than I expected. ‘Are you pleased?’ I asked her. ‘Yes and no,’ she replied. ‘Why no?’ ‘There are more poets than readers. Who will buy it?’ Another poet, Andrew Barber chipped in with ‘I know what you mean – I’ve written three books since I saw you last.’ Blimey. This reminded me of the last time this issue reared its ugly head: https://festivalchronicle.wordpress.com/2012/05/13/heated-debate-at-swindon-poetry-sunday/

I recommend everyone buys Cristina’s wonderful creation and prove her wonderfully wrong!

(I felt I was helping the next generation of poetry readers by snaffling a couple of kid’s books for my six year old while I was at the library: a anthology of dinosaur poems, and ‘Silly Poems for Kids’ by the late, great Spike Milligan. Alongside the latest Doctor Who novel.)

Co-organiser Michael Scott showed us his homage to the day’s theme: a piece of paper covered in coloured stars. Haha.

George Moorhead demonstrated that he can ‘take the stage even though there isn’t one’ – his poem was greeted with a big cheer.

A few choice lines to enjoy: from organiser Hilda Sheehan ‘bright as a naked lightbulb’ and Andrew Barber ‘I’m as rough as a cat’s tongue.’

And to finish: a few tips if I may for recitalists so we can gain maximum enjoyment from your work:

  • Please don’t EVER apologise. Get up there and read, perform, whatever but don’t say sorry about it. We’ll decide if we like it or not. Be confident!
  • PAUSE at the end of each poem. Give it a chance to sink in. Don’t immediately say, ‘and now I’m going to read…’ no matter how nervous you are. It’s like telling a joke without giving the audience a chance to laugh.
  • Practise, practise and practise reading your poetry – say it loud and proud, say it confidently, say it with feeling. Poetry read flatly kills it dead.

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