Aldeburgh Poetry Festival 2015

Mild November. Real rain for the first time this autumn and I forgot to bring real rain coat.  No dog (Barry looking after) and missing him.

Friday, preparing the rooms. Joanna, my traditional Aldeburgh PF team mate and I are together, (phew), in the Baptist Chapel, in Aldeburgh, the only people in town not Snape. Marginal girls.  Nice space, high ceilings, wood benches, plenty of godly words on the walls to contemplate.

Friday Workshop with Susan Wicks – in translation 

I’ve remembered this year to treat myself to a workshop, at a unmissable price of £20. They take place in the Red House – BB’s home, a man i know little of, so I pick up a book or two which I fail to read as the weekend of poetry takes over. I’m re-allocated to Susan Wicks in Translation, which will be a surprise. She’s a double act with Valerie Rouzeau, whose work she translates. Valerie (French)  is animated, rising up and down from her chair. In perfect English she says she speaks English terribly. If only my French were that bad.

We delved into the subtlety of translation, which I’ve not given much thought to before. One is better than two, in translation. It’s not a democracy, or co-operative cake, but a vision, so best not to be clouded by two or more visions. Les belle infidel /  Pejorative or derogatory  /

Dean Parkin’s launch of The Swan Machine 

Launch is at the Peter Pears gallery across the road. The best moment was when the the burglar alarm went off, Dean welcoming the unexpected guest of sound, with such casual flair. He’d just quoted his publisher, who’d said with Dean’s background he should not be a poet.  The alarm sounds.  ‘That’s it. Uncovered. Shouldn’t be a poet. Discovered.’

 

WP_20151108_09_14_26_ProDean’s collection is named after a machine that turned out plastic swans in his family front room. It’s all about his immediate world, Lowestoft, and environs.

Far too long to do and far too long to leave.  Swan Machine, was 20 years in the making. This is Dean. Humble yet surprisingly broad and deep and very funny.

Aldeburgh Poetry 2015-12

Main reading: Kai Miller, Helen Mort. 

Kai, Jamaican with a dark chocolate Welsh lilting voice. The singer man sang the rhythm of the road builders axe. The cartographer and the rasta – a conversation.

Helen Mort  is young  and spoke of mountains, climbing, bodies, her father, landlocked Sheffield. The frown line of the hill.

Where is Ellen, the newly appointed Poetry Trust director? Somethings up, nothing said. Less said better, says Michael. Was I wearing my beret when I came in?

Found the accommodation – a holiday let in Snape – sharing with Gill, the Poetry Trust driver, who came in late, with a bed time story: She’d tried to park next door at the Snape Village Hall, but seeing a sign up – Village Hall Only – went in to ask the bowlers permission. She was driving a large Ford Galaxy too big to get up the drive to our Holiday let. A pensioner there, playing bowls, refused her permission. No one could park there without permission, it would have to go to the committee, she affirmed. Gill, exhausted, from to and fro to Stanstead airport and the like, found tears erupting from tired eyes. An old boy told her to sit down, then took charge of her and said she could park at Malcolm’s opposite, for he was in hospital and probably not coming out, anyhow he had space and it would be easy for her. Oh posh Snape, beholder of red tape. Permission to be kind?

SATURDAY

Tony Hoagland – Idiom and culture

Easy, fast speaking, intense American. He has beautiful long fingers. Idioms as tribal identity, familiar, of the same familyYou are so busted / The eagle has landed – code for bedding a woman.

Close reading Kim Addonizio

She looked so young, I refused to believe she was older than me (born 1954). Beautifully toned arms. Visual visceral reading. Connections. Subconscious, open your hearts.

An Oak Almanac by Jerry Loose, illustrated by Movan

My first introduction. Naturally, afterwards, I noticed what I’d left out. While researching last night, I’d chanced on one particularly striking black and white photo of naked trees, their tendril branches like veins around a heart. Dancing. The photographs were taken by Movan, Jerry’s wife. He writes of two land masses West coast peninsular, Knoidart – he reminds me of the place I swore one day I’d return to – and Finland. The oldest surviving ancient oak woodland, planted for warships and kings. He tells a nice anecdote of a Finish man gesturing why and the three words of Finish that he knows, oak, cheers and thanks.

Aldeburgh Poetry 2015-2

John Burnside talking about birds

He begins with Edward Thomas. Some Victorians had imagined that the nightingale weighs the same as the human soul, 22 grammes. All the kings men. He switches glasses, nervously, between reading and seeing us, but cannot remember if he’d left them on top of his head or round his neck or on the podium. Between each reading is this dance of glasses.

 

…. East Coast Cafe

Joanna and I drank 3 quid coffees at East Coast Cafe, catching up. We both have bungalow news. She’d moved in to hers in Theberton in June. Naturally we discuss the festival: No Ellen. No poetry paper. People enter after the start. Doors bang. Mobile phones sometimes sing off. This is a different festival.

Valerie joins us with her historie. She left her room last night at mid night, after being bitten by bed bugs.  She rolls up her sleeve, points to her face. As it turns out she’s has previous experience – some bed bugs take years to get over, and these she is sure are not so long term. The chemist was sympathetic and provided ointment and tablets, which she must be carful of taking not to challenge her other medication. Bi-polar does not surprise me. Like Grahame Green who said he had “a character profoundly antagonistic to ordinary domestic life,” and that “unfortunately, the disease is also one’s material.”

But Joanna invites the train of thought out of the box. We used to have all these words and phrases, like lost marbles, gone dolally,  a bit fey. Now they are all boiled down to one: dementia or bi-polar. I love Joanna. We all agree with Valerie – it’s all too much and something needs to change.

Joanna:  ‘I have tendency to be righteous, too quick to find fault. It was not always thus. In my drinking years, I was softer with delusion’.
‘Ah yes, so like my sex years, that delusion time passed.’
‘I think I’d have preferred the sex.’

Aldeburgh Poetry 2015-3

Alison Brackenbury

Standing in for Richard Mabey – talked on John Clare. She is both doll like and steel strong, her face framed with a mass of curling locks, her keen eyes magnified through thick glasses. I’d seen her around at previous festivals –  a noticeably interesting woman. She wove in the life of her farming family – my father like Clare worked as a plough boy. How farming was changing the landscape in Clare’s time as in ours, she gave an impassioned call to human kind to take care of the soil, rallying Clare as the environmental activist.

WP_20151107_16_16_42_Pro

Nick Lantz

Of the parrot and other birds who can speakHe relays with pedestrian care his mother and her diminishing mind, all though the parrot. The last lines classically made me cry and laugh. Of the Parrot and Other Birds that Can Speake by Nick Lantz

http://blog.bestamericanpoetry.com/the_best_american_poetry/2010/07/of-the-parrat-and-other-birds-that-can-speake-by-nick-lantz.html

Jeremy Noel Todd on Langley

Came with challenging audio visuals for the Baptist Chapel and Torbin.

It was a nice talk of a recently dead local writer, called Langley, who’d documented in his journal his visitations to churches etc. then transformed them into poetry. In 1975 he came through Halesworth. Recalling Hopkins he spoke about the whatness, the inscape .Somewhere he bought in Richard Wolheim.
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n22/rf-langley/to-a-nightingale

South Look out in the rain

‘Artist, oak, poetry, words – come in’ I challenge passers by ‘Change your direction, take a chance’
‘We’re going for fish and chips’ they often said. I did little to persuade. Rain and wind focused the stomach need.
‘Perhaps it’s your Jeremy Corbyn badge which dissuades people?’ the hostess of the South Look out observed, with a smile.
‘The only one in Aldeburgh, I’d imagine’.

Gerry read from his book. The Ladder artist, Ian Starsmore, came.

Main reading: Addonizio

Addonizio blew us away. She began with magic dust. I’d missed John Reed, so did not catch it may have been gentle mick take – Sara enlightened.
‘What this festival needs is foliage!, she announced, and with her fingers she sprayed some magic dust.
Measuring what falls from the  / Syria.
The first line is the deepest. Inspired by a challenge to Hopkins, Gerard Manley.
Plastic, Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.)

‘She draws you into the boudoir of narrative’ says Tony Hoagland, ‘and keeps you there until she’s finished. Imagination like a run away train under perfect control.

She is the first to stir me, to sit up in my comfortable Snape Malting seat.

An hysterical theatrical blues poem called, ‘Penis Blues’, which involved inviting three brave men from the audience to act as her penis backing singers as she read a poem about what she called a time of ‘penis famine’ in her life.

She ends by stepping aside the lectern, wearing an layered dress, little boots, revealing her thin shapely legs, she plays the harmonica, imitating a train – you could see the smoke. Wow.

SUNDAY

…. Aldeburgh Remembrance day Sunday

Our stories collected on Aldeburgh beach this morning. A young lad plays the last post.

Memory. I’d forgotten until I stopped, during that enforced 2 minutes of silence, a long breath out. My father had died around this time, just before I think. The man I only knew from my mother, whose life surfaced this time of year as Remembrance Day became for her a book mark, to that unkind chapter in her life. She is gone now. All that survives are fragments of memory that may or may not have happened. Did he die in a bath? Was it true I found him there? A woman bends down to hold her dogs mussel, as a firework bangs.

Aldeburgh Poetry 2015-14

Travelling Ladders Ian Starsmore

From Wood Dawling, Norfolk. A Burston connection – my Jeremy Corbyn badge caught his attention. I’d gone to Burston this year, I said.

Burston the longest strike in history.  The teachers came to Burston from Wood Dalling, he reminded me.  His studio is the Wood Dalling church. Ladders need a big space, are tall with much space in between. Birch wood. Stripped. A vertical market rich in idiom and story, playfully caught in a poem by Paul Stephenson, Yada Yada Yada. Snakes and adders. You live in the Dales and work in Lidl. Yes, I’ve moved from lad to ladder. Maker make shift.

Aldeburgh Poetry 2015-13

Lunch with Les

Lunch, unexpectedly at the East Coast Cafe. Les arrived, smoking a cigarette outside in winter sunshine. He took a photograph of me wearing the only Jeremy Corbyn badge in Aldeburgh. We at confit of duck, drank one glass of quality white wine. We mulled over our afternoon choices: Antony Gormley, Maggie Hambling, a jumper in the 2nd hand shop and poetry. The sculptures would last, the rest was now and transient. He bought the jumper, and we motored to the poetry, the last readings of the festival.

Aldeburgh Poetry 2015-16

It was a humble, simple thanks from Dean. I’m going to mention you all. He named Jo Mary, Amy, then us volunteers (am I supposed to be sitting in the main hall? I think as we’re invited to stand up)

16 years, he chocked. I’m going to say it.

Choman Hardi

She spoke of the 1988 Kurdish massacre. So many numbers. I lost count of the noughts. It was when she came to speak of her own life, falling in love with an Englishman settling here. ‘I didn’t know these would be my English years’. When that time passed she returned to the war ravaged streets and uncertain electricity and water of Kurdistan Iraq and Iran.

Tony 

Tony blew us away. His shopping malls, named streets, that we all knew and didn’t know. Description witty, kind, idiom filled. He lifted us all out from the mundane shopping malls to beauty.

The Colour of Sky http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171303

It’s been doing that all week:
making beauty,
and throwing it away,
and making more.

Picket house

Arriving early I tied the balloons to sign the way. Kim Addonizio and I exchanged storage stories, and difficulties in settling. She’s a city girl.

Tony Ward from Arc publishing and I had a dance.
Can I hold that plate for you? Can I put some more cream onto your carrot cake?
Is it a small publishing house? I asked
No, he said emphatically – (what a stupid question I ask).
It’s an Indy, I never knew what that meant. Independent.
Hebron bridge.

Eating my sausage stew beside Robert, we talked of woods, and how they are good for us, he’s inherited a small home in Oxfordshire, where he now goes most weekends, and misses it when he doesn’t. It has a wood at the end of the garden.

I searched and could not find the words ‘The doggon’, for Edward.

Came home to my flat mate, Gill, and the end game of her parking story. How the people of the village hall are up in arms at how she was treated, refused permission to park there the night. There will be a revolution in Snape village hall!

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