Don’t tell anyone, but I get very, very nervous about delivering workshops to school children. Who knows what they might do?! Unripe humans! But it was my sacred duty as poet-in-residence at the Hartlepool WW1 archive project to spend a morning on a boat, sorry ship, on a ship, with 25 Year Five children, on a ship, writing about the ship that we were on. This ship.
Luckily, mostly what these unripe humans did was to get very excited by the joys of writing poetry, especially when they find out they have the powers of Amazing Adjectives and Super Similes! (Favourite extended simile of the day – “as red as a devil, sitting on lava, eating a bloody heart, in an Arsenal strip”)
We collectively made a poem describing the ship by describing its many parts, textures, surfaces. It worked. I smoothed out the edges. It’s now online on the archive website here – give it a read? You can find some more of mine up there too.
I spent the weekend in St Andrews as a performer at StAnza, Scotland’s international poetry festival. Lucky, lucky, lucky me! Collected from the station, treated with unfailing courtesy and unflappability by every staff member and volunteer, fed at the poet’s buffet for free throughout the weekend, delivered back to my home-bound train in timely fashion – bliss!
This was my first time to StAnza, and even had I not received the perks of performer status I would have been bowled over by the finely-tuned balance of the programming, the range of poetic styles encompassed, and the inventiveness of the ‘extras’ such as table-side performances and hashtag poetry. (By the way, my set -collection launch went very well. There are reviews here and here, which I don’t expect anyone but my mum to actually read. Hi Mum!)
In one day you could attend: a serious breakfast talk about the concept of the body in poetry, led by a diverse panel of poets including multi-award winning Andrew McMillan and arch-innovator SJ Fowler; an intimate gathering in a graceful oval drawing room, hung with green watered silk wallpaper and garnished with immaculate white orchids, listening to Pascale Petit fill it with hummingbirds and jaguars; a lunchtime hour of sheer entertainment from a spoken word show like Jemima Foxtrot‘s Melody; an afternoon of splurge-buying beautiful small press poetry collections and chapbooks; a double-bill main stage presentation of classic readings by Jo Shapcott right next to multi-lingual near-operatic sound poetry from Nora Gomringer (complete with jazz drummer); and then round it all off with a poetry slam hosted by current BBC Champion Scott Tyrrell.
Frankly, what this kind of programming says to me is that the team who put this festival together know their poetry, widely and deeply, and are passionate about it in all its various glories – at times to the point of fangirldom! If you have any love at for poetry, you should go. And it doesn’t hurt that a. St Andrews is charming and b. it has both gelaterias and second hand book shops. Perfect.