Ledbury Poetry Festival

What a full-on week it’s been: a glorious mix of poetry, music and family. Consequently it’s Sunday evening already and I’ve only just sat down in front of my PC to write this week’s blog post.

The poetry highlight of my week was my first visit to Ledbury Poetry Festival. This has been on my wish list (recently renamed my Life’s For Living list) for some time, so I’m pleased that, at last, I’m able to put some of my poetry plans into action.

As Ledbury is a small market town, it was quick and easy to move between venues without getting lost (I found I didn’t really use the street guide I’d picked up at the festival office). The festival is extremely well-organised and executed with a warm and friendly vibe. Add to this an uneventful return road trip on well-behaved motorways, a spot of retail therapy along The Homend and an overnight stay in a thatched country cottage B & B: just the ticket!

Ledbury’s Market Theatre was the venue for Martin Figura’s Doctor Zeeman’s Catastrophe Machine, on Thursday night.

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I found Figura’s stage performance witty and moving by turns; the running slide show backdrop was equally engaging. I thoroughly recommend seeing this, if you get the chance.

My first booked event on Friday was Kim Moore’s writing workshop, Veiling the Narrative. Using exemplar poems followed by short writing exercises, we explored different techniques for telling/not telling the story: what to tell and what to hold back. I came away with a few starters.

I then hot-footed it over to Burgage Hall

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for the Eric Gregory award-winners’ readings. Some initial technical issues with Skype connections for two poets meant that the last few readings were rather rushed. Nevertheless, the hour was an interesting introduction to a range of styles and subjects from the young and promising.

Jill Abram’s Stablemates event was perhaps my favourite of the day. I really liked the format: three poets with a publisher in common; three twenty-minute ‘salons’ comprising a compere-led Q & A followed by a short reading. Kim Moore, Jonathan Edwards and Paul Henry were the Seren-published stablemates. Their responses to Jill Abram’s well-chosen questions gave an insight into their respective collections prior to their readings.

I had time between events for refreshments and to seek refuge from the heat (I wasn’t the only one in Burgage Hall fanning myself with a festival programme in an effort to cool down and combat drowsiness).

Sinead Morrissey’s reading, and conversation with Ursula Owen, was the last event on my itinerary. I had to admire Morrissey’s poise and composure as, by this stage, I was at melting point. Some memorable remarks by the poet included her conviction that all poetry is political as the act of writing is revolutionary; that we are custodians of language. I was intrigued by her envy of poets who ‘have their own language’ (she maintains she does not). Morrissey’s reading of poems from her latest collection, On Balance, elicited audible poetry murmurs from her audience.

I didn’t linger afterwards as, by then, it was 7pm and time to head for my car (and the joy of its air con.) for the drive home.

Lovely Ledbury. A much-needed break. A recharge for poetry batteries. I hope to return.

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Poetry plans

Life as I’d like it to be is on the horizon, at last.  By way of a celebration, I’ve booked some poetry jollydays:

Ten Years of Nine Arches Press: a Celebration
At just over £20 for my all-day ticket and return rail travel to Birmingham, it’s a snip (and I shan’t feel quite so guilty if I splurge on books, will I?).  I’m particularly looking forward to Josephine Corcoran‘s launch reading from What Are You After? and to meeting her in the real world, at last.  I’m hoping my pre-ordered copy will arrive in the post before 23rd June, so I can get it signed.

Ledbury Poetry Festival has been on my Wish List since I began growing it, last year. I’ve plumped for an overnight stay on 5th July, thus splitting the ‘leisurely’ return journey along the A46 and enjoying a night’s B & B in a lovely country cottage I’m delighted to have discovered on Airbnb.  Here’s my chosen itinerary:

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Closer to home, I’m pleased to be part of the editorial team for an exciting new publication from Soundswrite Press:

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If you’re making poetry travel plans, I’d love to hear about them in the comments box below.