Tag Archives: poetry

Levelling up to Shakespearean

11 Oct

 

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George Fell – a welder by day, guitarist by night (imagine Jamie Dornan, not Flash Dancer Jennifer Beals) – opened the Poetry Swindon Festival Finale with fantastic finger twiddling of self-penned pieces. Inspiration, George shared, came from such sources as trapped bees behind a window and the dawn chorus at Glastonbury Festival mocking his hangover.

Poet and children’s writer A.F. Harrold made his second appearance after the Children’s Open Mic that morning, with added swearing and Greggs the Baker ejection anecdotes. He worried about the ‘judgemental’ big standee of the disconsolate Festival mascot, Dog. After the heavyweight poetry of the last four days, the audience was up for A.F.’s humour, even withstanding the affectionate booing greeting the lack of Dog love. Continue reading

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The sky shalt never be gunmetal

9 Oct

At the post-lunch reading slot at Poetry Swindon yesterday, young local poet and singer Olivia Tuck stepped in for a poorly Camilla Nelson.

Now while I’m sure Camilla would have been great (because Poetry Swindon has impeccable taste), Olivia made the most of her surprise moment. Funny and revealing, Olivia tells the trials and tribulations of youth, with a backdrop of in and out-patient mental health services and dark fantasies like Changeling. Today, chronicler Milo age 11 – still hanging around after the Children’s Open Mic, chilling on a bean bag and catching the reading – can still recall much of Olivia’s poem about her 12-year-old self.

She was in great company with two 2017 highly commended Forward Prize poets, Rishi Dastidar and Jessica Mookherjee. Continue reading

Mad and Glow – the experiment

8 Oct
Mad and Glow

Mad and glowing (photo by Nine Arches Press)

INSIDE

I met Tania Hershman, Poet in Residence at Swindon and my now partner-in-poetry, at the Nine Arches Christmas party last year. When we heard each other read, we were both struck by the ways our work resonated, although our styles are very different, and began to wonder whether, given that we both have a background in theatre, we might put together a two-woman show. As we were beginning to focus on this idea, we realised that we were going to be at Swindon at the same time. This seemed to be too good an opportunity to miss, so we tentatively asked Hilda Sheehan whether we could have ten minutes for little scratch performance. Hilda being Hilda, lover of experiments, gave us a one hour slot and left us to it. And so Mad and Glow was born. This is a two-woman show directed by my daughter Tamar, involving tea, sandwiches, audience participation and quite a lot of poetry. Continue reading

Politics and Provocation

8 Oct

Daljit Nagra’s was a packed workshop in the holiday Inn and we were grateful for the posh bottles of water, Holiday Inn notepads and pens, and thankfully, air conditioning. Things got quite ‘balmy’ as Daljit put it as this workshop progressed. I had intended to come as an observer but found myself quickly and irrevocably drawn in.

The political became more and more accessible as a way into poetry as the workshop progressed. Daljit talked about his experience of writing British Museum, that a way to get into the structures of politics, for him, was to look at the structures of buildings; beautifully concrete images to work from. He talked about the joy of taking on The Big Poem, of doing the research without an authoritative or didactic voice, and mentioned my favourite Yeats quote: ‘Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry’. From this, he invited us, amongst other things, to be non-partisan and to write from another’s point of view. Continue reading

Deathcap mushroom babies and other stories

7 Oct
Poetry Primers

From left: Ben Bransfield, Cynthia Miller, Jane Commane (Nine Arches Press), Marvin Thompson. Bottom right: Tony Hillier

Regarding the quality of Poetry Swindon’s hosts, as I’ve written before, if you want a note-free host who knows more about the poet’s work than their own mother, Sam is your man. He makes the kind of celebratory introduction that forces an advance apology from the poet. And not forgetting Poetry Swindon’s finger-clicking and foot-stomping founder and leader, Hilda. I remember when Hilda could barely stand in front of a crowd. These days she has comic timing that would cause a stand-up to ask if she ran performance workshops and encourages us to encourage the poets with the clapping, cheering and whooping usually reserved for slams.

Yesterday, Tony was the cheerleader for Poetry Swindon Festival’s Poetry Primers, who had not a droney ‘poetry voice’ between them. I wasn’t sure at first about Ben Bransfield’s slow pace but then realised this enabled the absorption of unfamiliar words, phrases and lines, when the norm is for whole poems to gust by on a gale of inattention. One memorable poem owned the line ‘as you do’ as Ben contemplated fatherhood of a deathcap mushroom baby (I’m guessing in the vein of ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’). Later he riffed on Scrooge and Jacob Marley as lovers which makes total sense if you think of it in the context of waking up drunk and imagining randy ghosts. Continue reading

Singh Songs and other poems beginning with S

6 Oct

You know that moment when you finally get what a poem means and then you realise – aghast – that every time previously you’ve heard the poet read it you’ve been smiling faintly or staring at the floor and then you realise IT’S A SAD POEM. This happened to me before when I submitted a poem celebrating my newly born daughter for critique to a writers group at the same time as another writer submitted a poem about her dead baby son and I still didn’t realise until critiquing it at the group when suddenly the penny dropped. Continue reading

The unusual questions

5 Oct

Poetry Swindon Festival opened at Artsite*, in Swindon’s artistic centre which in the almost-city’s inimitable fashion consists of a tiny theatre, a large theatre, a computer museum, the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust, a couple of kebabs shops and a nail bar.

From the outside, Poems Aloud set off like a religious gathering**, passersby looking in, wondering what was this self-assuming event and if they should investigate or pass on by the other side.

The usual questions were posed from paper, book and phone. Was/is Philip Larkin misogynistic? The dilemma when you’re asked to write an ecological-biased poem about bees and it ends up as a bee dress. (There were two bee poems, though the bee in the second one had a sad ending, for the bee anyway). Is it ok for shops to begin ‘celebrating’ Christmas in October? How to deal with office romances? Whether good melancholy is a substitute for a happiness? And is a love poem for Swindon possible? (yes)

Outside was the Poetry Pram, inviting cooing adults to adore the poems within. And there were hats.

*A little birdy told me why it wasn’t at the usual venue of Central Library––’they wanted to charge us! For doing the Council’s job of providing free culture!’

**Thanks to Robert Stredder for this observation.

Written by Louisa Davison

Poems Aloud took place at Artsite, Swindon, 5 October 2017, as part of Poetry Swindon Festival