Tag Archives: Louisa Davison

Think! It’s the Law.

13 May

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The always intriguing Think Slam posed answers and gave questions in its usual, unusual way.

A packed Arts Centre seemed thankful for the thinkful competitors whose bravery in the face of thought never ceased to amaze.

Sara-Jane Arbury introduced the 8th ‘Think Slam’ incarnation and was quick to point out that the Swindon Festival of Literature hosts the only event of its kind in the country.

A chill must have coursed the collective spines of the Think Slammers as philosopher Stephen Law was press-ganged into the role of judge supremo – his latest book is Believing Bullshit: How Not To Get Sucked Into An Intellectual Black Hole.

But bullshitters these thinkers were not, as they presented a typically varied and at times surprising window on their world. Each competitor had a three-minute time slot in which to make their argument in the most effective way possible.

John Yates, a self-identifying Remainer still stunned by BREXIT got proceedings underway with a suggestion that a byproduct of dramatic political change could be the dismantling of our political system. 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

Poetry publication advice

13 Oct
Nia Davies

Nia Davies of Poetry Wales

Poets, how can you get your poem in print?

Nine Arches Press and Under the Radar editor, Jane Commane, and Poetry Wales magazine editor, Nia Davies, was in conversation with poet, reviewer and lecturer, Dr Carrie Etter, at Poetry Swindon Festival.

Here’s their thoughts:

Q. How much time should a poet leave before chasing an editor regarding their poetry submission for publication?
A. Give a month longer than the time period specified by the publication. No one will penalise you for (gently) enquiring after the fate of your poem. Both Under the Radar and Poetry Wales use online process Submittable, which visibly tracks the progress of the poem with the editor. 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

STICK IT IN YOUR PANTS!

7 Oct

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The night before at the Ruth Stone House Party – also featuring lots of poets – the intros seem to go on f.o.r.e.v.e.r. and basically a long list of publications.

Thankfully the point of Quiet Compere was for the audience to decide if the 10 poets x 10 minutes were any good by listening to their poems. And so our first half host, Sarah L Dixon, read a couple of her poems and introduced poets by way of their name only.

Sarah’s The Source was probably the muckiest poem I’ve heard about a marriage breakup – a horrid smell leading to a cloth in drawer for a collection of, ahem, male excretions. Continue reading

The Spirit of Keats

4 Oct

Great idea. Keats poetry set to music, threaded through with ghostly story.

The first drama was how my friend Tess could avoid the rustling of a bag of Haribos during the performance. We didn’t think they’d appreciate this added sound effect. She solved the problem by emptying the sweets into her handbag. (I hope she found all of them. Few things worse at the bottom of a handbag than old sticky sweets; perhaps bruised pears and spare toddler’s pants that fly out in a meeting when trying to find a pen – but that might just be me.)

If you know anything about poetry or remember it from school, Keats is almost certainly in the running order, so this came at it from a fresh angle.

The singing was impassioned, the piano beautiful but the story left me a little cold. Continue reading

Wild writing

18 May
Isn't Lower Shaw Farm pretty?

Isn’t Lower Shaw Farm pretty? Photo (C) Festival Chronicle.

Us chroniclers love an event leader who gives good quote.

Bridget Holding’s workshop was one of well-honed analogies, thoughtful phrases and stimulating prompts.

Her writing hook is wild. “Nature is a brilliant resource – it’s very living, it helps writing to become alive. It grounds ourselves,” said Bridget. And ‘new’ nature writing is very now – such as Amy Liptrot and The Outrun, as featured earlier in the Swindon Festival of Literature.

She explained what she meant: ‘writing is like tracking a wild animal’. An animal exists in its environment; it uses its senses. It has a physical bodily reaction with broad body sensations which intensify into emotions. Emotion is there to deal with a threat, leading to action. This will create powerful writing, lighting up the brain’s neurons, helping the reader live in your world, not simply look at it. Continue reading

Character and values with Cristina Odone

18 May

“I hate many American things, but I admire their confidence. America has something we don’t. They know their values. But they also know how to assimilate,” said Cristina Odone at Swindon Festival of Literature.

Cristina is a professional thinker (director of the new Centre for Character and Values at the Legatum Institute, former editor of the Catholic Herald and deputy editor of the New Statesman) who’s fed up with us British being all wishy-washy and apologetic about our values.

“I’m not saying we have to judge. I’m not saying Western values are the best; we are shaped by Judaeo-Christian values. But they are ours and we should stand by them.”

The values in question are Aristotelian in origin, Christianised by saints Aquinas and Augustine: courage, obedience, charity and scholarship. (It is interesting that Cristina chooses to interpret ‘agape’ as ‘charity’ over ‘love’, and misses out ‘faith’ and ‘hope’ completely from the Christian triplet.)

The talk begins with a tale of two men, two Muslims, both British. Asad Shah, a community-minded Scottish-Pakistani shopkeeper, was murdered ostensibly in extremist retaliation for Easter goodwill messages on social media. The other was Mohammed Emwazi or ‘Jihadi John’, the British-Arab ISIS terrorist. Cristina believes Shah was in possession of good character and strong values, while Emwazi was rootless and felt no connection to his community. Continue reading

C is for chocolate – day four of the Poetry Swindon Festival

5 Oct

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Day four of Poetry Swindon Festival
Events take place at Lower Shaw Farm

10:45. Arrival. Hellos, how are yous, coffee, rush (late) to poetry mosaic workshop with Lynette Thomas of Artkore. Manage to cobble together something that started out as ‘life is fun’ and ended up some dark comment about fashion models. Chronicler Pete later says it looks like a bunch of random words and magazine pictures. Other (more enlightened people) say ‘oo I like that one’. Admittedly their favourite thing might be a bunch of random words and magazine pictures.

The sun is shining, gracing us with its warm presence, autumn is only a state of mind. Behind us is the old cow shed converted to event room, and accommodation rooms. In front of us is the covered play area with mattresses and hammocks. All around are flowers, somewhere to sit and chat; ducks and chickens peck round. A fox gives them the willies. Continue reading

Vanessa LaFaye – English v American market at Swindon Festival of Literature

9 May

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The sticky subject of simplifying modern literature for an American audience was discussed during an interview with author Vanessa LaFaye on Friday.

Sticky, because Vanessa is an American living in the Wiltshire. And sticky, because the author is being forced to choose between her preferred nuances within the novel, and commercial success in the US market. Continue reading