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Life without poetry… poetry without life

14 May
Hilary Davies

Hilary Davies

An event that starts with Anna Wickham’s words is going to have a head start in my world. I can always rely on festival director Matt Holland for this. Matt walks around with her words in his breast pocket, and in his head.

I married a man of the Croydon class
When I was twenty-two.
And I vex him, and he bores me
Till we don’t know what to do!
It isn’t good form in the Croydon class
To say you love your wife,
So I spend my days with the tradesmen’s books
And pray for the end of life.

From Nervous Prostration

This is the measure of a great festival director who not only last night celebrated his first ever guest of 25 years ago, Sebastian Barker, he also celebrated women and their contribution to arts, war, and life. Continue reading

Swindon Slam – the real elephant in the room

14 May
Swindon Slam winner Joy-Amy Wigman

Swindon Slam winner Joy-Amy Wigman

“Poems are no longer dangerous enough; risk-averse…” shouts Brenda Reed Brown, Swindon Slam contestant. And, as the evening comes to an end, I must agree she may have a point.

For the 25th anniversary of the Festival of Literature (and the 22nd Swindon Slam) previous winners – normally excluded from entering – were invited back.

That was good news for 2017 winner, Joy-Amy Wigman, who took the 2018 trophy with her poem, Hell Is Empty; a political poem documenting an encounter that Joy had with a Tory MP who advised ‘disability cuts will not affect you’. This statement promoted her pennings and sign off – it will affect you, maybe not, you are a Tory.

Fellow finalist Chris Osman, meanwhile, competed with his poem, Even Daily Mail Readers Die. Continue reading

Andra Simons

14 Oct
Andra Simons

Andra Simons

Andra Simons blew me away.

The last poet to read at Poetry Swindon Festival – poetry was actually banned after him – and it felt a fitting send off.

“I heard him and thought he was special and wanted to share him,” said director, Hilda. This is the job of an artistic director as far as I’m concerned – to have impeccable taste.

Andra is from Bermuda; he yelled, he repeated words into a rhythm, he smeared facepaint all over his poetry film, he mentions LGBT issues, and showed his love for his mom.

Andra’s work could have been a tirade of bitterness. He’s the son of an illegitimate child who was called ‘the bastard’ at school – by the teachers – and it was assumed that neither Andra’s father or his offspring would amount to anything. Continue reading

Dogs and cats

11 Oct

I am Dog.

It is the final day of Poetry Swindon’s festival. For an entire week, I have stood silently in the Tent-Palace of the Delicious Air, watching and listening as poets spin colours from words. Now I leave my china body and send my spirit out across the festival.

Focus…

I am in the Richard Jefferies Museum. Daljit Nagra’s masterclass has begun. There is a fine table covered in sleek green leather. Daljit sits at one end, like a friendly teacher. Like a friendly headmaster.

Some of the students are established poets. Others are relatively new to the poetry world. One, in particular, feels like a pretender. The word “master” is not a term he identifies with.

Focus… Continue reading

Finale it’s happened to me

9 Oct

 

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Right in front of my face and it’s poetry.

The end.

I’ve lost my bloody hat but in the grand scheme of things who cares?

Writes Domestic Cherry veteran Barry Dicks from his surveillance vehicle.

I had it when I was installing my CCTV in that psychedelic tent of theirs.

I’m over the road, the Texaco Garage, in Roy’s van.

I’m in the back with my bank of 3 widescreen Bright House tellies, one blinking like a Belisha beacon.

It doesn’t make for interesting viewing but I’m watching the Festival Finale/Domestic Cherry Party which has started with a loose and wayward open-mic hosted by the cheerily sardonic Sam Loveless. Continue reading

When your mother calls you smart she doesn’t mean it as a compliment

9 Oct

Mona Arshi was really pleased to be at Poetry Swindon Festival. ‘I wanted to come here for so long,’ she said, looking around at the Tent-Palace, ‘This is beautiful.’

She brought her husband and two daughters. The older of the two also looks smiley-faced but the younger lounges on a pouffe with her coat mostly covering her face. Mums are meant to be embarrassing but when your mother is a poet who dedicates her work to you, that’s another level, ‘When your mother calls you smart she doesn’t mean it as a compliment.’ Continue reading

The one that didn’t get away

8 Oct

Ken Evans.jpg

Ken Evans – 2016 Battered Moons Competition Winner

I am the wastepaper basket under the desk of a tired poetry competition judge and I’m full.

I’m waiting for the black bag to come again to release me from this heavy weight of 40% hope and 60% despair that has me brimming over. 

But this time it’s different, I can sense a poem being uncrumpled, flattened out and reconsidered.

It is, of course, the winning poem and I am glad to give back for once.

Daljit Nagra hasn’t got to where he’s got to without being a disarmingly honest and funny bloke. Continue reading