Friday evening and going strong

6 Oct

And today, how the day has stretched out. From the Holiday Inn breakfast and the specially made poached eggs, I made my way to Tania Hershman‘s working on ‘Liberation through Constraint’ and found a bunch of hardy writers ready to take on the four incredible challenges she set us, smiling, as if she were offering us bars of chocolate. Which of course meant that we were all up for it, and launched ourselves in with some incredible results, judging from the pieces people read out. The culmination of the workshop was the introduction of the ‘Drabble’ – nothing to do with the very wordy novelist – a flash fiction form that has to be exactly 100 words. Discoveries and surprises all round, I’d say.

The open mic after lunch yielded more surprises, with its theme of ‘strange days’. The star of the show was probably the large German shepherd whose name I think was Rory; he actually stepped up to the mic on cue when his owner name-checked him in a poem. Apart from that particular surprise, there were powerful and impassioned poems on all kinds of subjects ranging from mental health to an opera singer in a washing machine to  the sculpture of Barbara Hepworth. The man with drums and a very long political message was strangely fascinating, and a couple of poets read the poems they’d written that very morning whilst in Daljit’s workshop.

I spent a good part of the afternoon in the tent with Tania Hershman rehearsing our two-woman show, ‘Mad and Glow’ which we’re premiering tomorrow afternoon. We tripped over a few microphone wires, Tania corrected me on a line of hers that I had inadvertently rewritten in my live rendition, and I got marmite on my script – but we eventually staggered through it and are excited to take it to an audience and see what they make of our particular madness. As Monty Python would say, it’s all in the best possible taste.

After the briefest of sojourns in my room I returned to the tent to hear Emma Simon, Sue Rose and Simon Williams – three contrasting poets in a beautifully curated reading. Emma’s actually in the seminar group I teach, so I couldn’t help feeling proud. I’ve known Sue Rose for a few years and it was great to hear her read a breadth of work over a full twenty minutes. Simon Williams is new to me, and closed the reading with some serious and some really really funny poems that the audience adored.

I can’t close this without mentioning the ‘festival bread’ – proper sourdough that’s properly excellent, and the delicious meals. I’m starting to feel slightly institutionalised as I turn up like a cow fresh from the pasture ready to be fed at the appointed times.


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