Monday, 5 November 2007

Aldeburgh and the story of the Irish man, the American and the Palestinian who walked into a hall

I came back from Aldeburgh Poetry Festival last night and immediately retreated into a darkened room to recover. It was a good week-end for many reasons. One reading in particular on the Saturday night was so good that I want to wrap it up in some soft tissue paper, put it in a beautifully crafted box and bring it our now and then to remind myself of what poetry is capable of.

Often at festivals there is a lots of comparing going on, poets listening to other poets often veer towards comparison. You know what I mean, the kind of comments whispered in dark alley ways by small huddles of audience members, teased out by wine in two am sea view rooms or argued about over pork scratchings in pubs

Poet A wasn’t as good as when I heard them read in 1989 in a small dungeon in Transylvania, Poet B’s new collection isn’t as good as their seventh, the one about wheat, I’m surprised Poet C is still alive, Poet D has changed publishers that would account for it, the old publisher would have never let the one about the verucca get into the collection, Poet F is wonderful on the page but their reading whilst hovering two feet off the floor was distracting, Poet G was wearing fuchsia lycra, it detracted somewhat from his work he is far better when wearing ecrue. How on earth did Poet H ever get that published, as Poet Z had their nude poems banned in certain American States?

The reading I treasured this week end was by the Irish poet John F Deane,the American prose poet Louis Jenkins and the Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali( translated by Peter Cole for a new Bloodaxe collection of his work). Read in particular the poem Meeting at an Airport available on this link and you may understand why the line 'and I worship the middle hours of the morning' will stay with me for a long time.

The links will give you a flavour of their work. All I will say is that readings which make you cry not in a sentimental manipulative way but by the sheer joy of what words can conjure are few and far between. Such readings do not illicit the comparison virus they simply make you want to aspire to be the best you can be as a writer and to reflect on why the right words in the right order can be so very very right.

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