Words by the Sea-side

As I prepare to move my geography from Suffolk to Norwich, I’ve had two rich and uplifting weekends locally both with words: the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival and Southwolds Way with Words. Both events by sea-side towns.

I understand we humans ‘go to the sea’ for the end of our lives: the view is compulsory outwards, looking beyond the conceit of ourselves which has busied us all our lives. I remember, as a child, when the world was my oyster, thinking what a waste, old retired people were far too old and decrepit to build sandcastles or swim or do the things the sea-side meant to me then. Oh the brazen centre of youth.

That weather, that water: changing clouds foreboding dark, illuminated one side by unexpected sun, then rain, rough sea, elemental,  slow motion waves coming as if they’re going to crash you, but fall just short on the sharp shelved beach. Power far greater than our small lives, and quintessentially transient.

I’ve returned home to find pined up on the pin board (in the loo) were the already bought tickets in advance (including for the fully booked Andrew Motion) – what blasted bad memory!

My festival starts on Friday with Hugh Thomson http://www.thewhiterock.co.uk workshop – on the cross over between poetry and travel. Unsurprisingly, we are 10  mirrors of myself – middle aged women plus one token man

Elizabeth Bishop ‘Question of Travel’

Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
What childishness is it that while there’s a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?

Detachment and engagement – stay at home or restlessly travel?

Hugh spoke about beginnings, and encouraged us to write the beginning of a story. Start in the middle of the runway, he said, the reader will catch up. The others were all so good. Mine so earth bound!

‘Over the last 10 years I wondered how I landed here, and stayed so much longer than expected. And then again, how did it take so long for me to find this place to hang my hat? I wanted to return to Africa, where I’d started climbing rifts and mountains, physically pushing myself for the first time in my 35 year old life. I knew I wanted something more than watching strangers in a play.

When Bob returned from Amsterdam, he gave me the good news, bad news options:
‘Africa is not polluted enough to warrant Greenpeace opening an office. But India is.’
It was in a sense that simple’

Of the poets, it was a young dynamite that attracted me, a woman called Caroline Bird. Hers was not my voice, so even more surprising was my visceral attraction to her energetic readings.  She said them all from memory, then cheekily, observing this said occasionally she read one, if it was too difficult: the one she read was 3 lines long. Young, brave, confident, funny, intelligent, out there. A past remembered perhaps!

Harry Clifton told a very funny story of Saul Bellow. I’d like to be God in France, no calls on you and you have all the power!

Their sex blown sheer through summer dresses

Dorianne Laux Close reading aleady forgotten. From a poet, whose writing is always written to her dead hustand.

‘Look what you’ve missed’

Southwold Ways with Words.

Richard Mayby

Country Life published in 1916 / Decline of the Nightingale / Definition of a weed: A plant in the wrong place.

Blake Morrison

Gentle man, long fingers, laughter lines, interviewed by Peter Stanford (who’d talk later) Already successfully published Memoirs of my father. Made into a film, which due to budgetory cut backs re-located the Austrian ski holiday to Toy Golf.

Peter Stanford, meeting laughter lines, tried to imagine how he’d look without long blond hair. I am a catholic, said many times, he’s written a book on pilrimage places in England and questioned why it has become so unpopular – compared to the past and other continents. I of course, am reminded of India, where life is a pilgrimage, and a day does not pass without seeing a Sadhu pass on his journey somewhere.

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