A Marathon Weekend of Poetry

The road to hell…good intentions. When I started this blog earlier in the year I meant to update it every week. David Borrot, who has just begun a new blog, has shamed me into updating  for the first time for a couple of months, with news of the marathon weekend of poetry I just about survived. Thanks David.

The marathon involved two friends: Kim Moore, a wonderful poet I met on the MA at Manchester Metropolitan and Ben Johnson whom I met at the Fermoy Poetry Festival in August 2013 when we were two of three international winners of the Fermoy Competition. Kim was in Fermoy as well; we had a lorra laffs!

On Friday evening, Kim and Ben joined a Poetry Skype from Kim’s home in Barrow in Furness, linking with poets from the Netherlands, Ireland and Texas. This was part of the Cork Night of Culture. I couldn’t join in the Skype as the internet signal was seriously weak on Friday night (one of the downsides of rural living) but I did catch some of it, especially Kim and Ben reading under torchlight to increase the light levels in her house. Technology eh?

On Saturday I went into Manchester for the Poets and Players event at the Chinese Arts Centre in the Northern Quarter, at which I was introducing the wonderfully enigmatic and darkly humorous Jane Yeh. The ‘Players’ were Li Lu (cello) and Despina Reid (violin), performing a Ravel Sonata in four parts, which was wonderful. Jane Yeh’s reading from her new book ‘The Ninjas’ was terrific. It has one of my favourite poems in: The Ghosts, which was published in the Poetry Review earlier in the year. I don’t like people who make marks in books, but when I read the line ‘Some of us think death is just another kind of being lonely‘, I highlighted it because I didn’t ever want to forget it.  The whole collection is  quirky and surprising and well worth buying. If you haven’t been to a Poets and Players event before you really should, they are SO GOOD. You don’t know what you’re missing!

I met Kim and Ben before the event and our marathon weekend began with lunch at Cafe Rouge in Manchester. They came along to the P&P event after lunch, and feedback from them was very positive. After the event Kim drove us up to Ulverston for the Poem and a Pint event that she helps to organise. Ben and I claimed an open mic spot each, but the headline reader was the lovely Buddhist poet, Maitreyabandhu. There was a bit of a heart stopping moment when British Rail carelessly lost him, but they located him in lost luggage or somewhere, and he arrived just in time for the start of the evening. The audience was lovely, very giving and appreciative. The venue was packed. Such a good event. Lizzie Hare read several of her poems and I was impressed enough to have to buy her pamphlet ‘Out of the Ordinary’. I also bought Maitreyabandhu’s collection ‘The Crumb Road’ when he read from the ‘Stephen’ sequence in the second half, despite promising myself I wouldn’t buy any more poetry books. But how can you not? I probably have a bigger collection than the British Library now, many of them signed by the poets.

After Poem and a Pint Kim, her husband Chris, Ben and I had an Indian meal: it was about 11.00 pm and we hadn’t eaten since midday, then we all shook down at Kim and Chris’s house for the night. After an impromptu breakfast, we were off again. We drove across to Wakefield, a two and a half hour journey, for the Poetry Business Writing Workshop, which was productive as ever. I don’t think I came home with any literary masterpieces, but I did come home with ideas for poems to work up at my own pace. I think I might have three decent poems from the day. We had lunch and tea breaks al fresco: the weather was absolutely gorgeous, real India summer. After the workshop there was a reading by poets in the Poetry Business stable, namely River Wolton, Geoff Hattersley, Simon Currie, Cathy Benson and Kim Moore. Five poets, five very different styles, an interesting reading session.

After the event, poor Ben had to drive back to the New Forest for work on Monday and Kim drove back to Barrow, dropping me off at J22 of the M62. Ben thought he had won ‘last man standing’ as he didn’t get home till after midnight; but when Kim told us she fell asleep updating her poetry blog with news of the weekend, he had to concede top spot. After another Indian meal (!), this time with my partner, Bill,  I collapsed into bed at 10.30, asleep  within minutes, lightweight that I am.

But at least I won the wooden  spoon. That’s good, isn’t it? Isn’t it?

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