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Coming back to blog writing after an absence of a few months is like going home after a very long time away. It's got used to its own emptiness, there's only a refrigerator hum, but there's a huge pile of letters on the mat that need a reply. So that's what I'll try and do. Matthew Stewart who is a terrific poet and prolific blogger has inspired me to get back on the blog horse. So here I am. Trotting. He's also written a lovely review of my pamphlet too. Thanks, Matthew!
I want to write about my recent(ish) trip to Aldeburgh. I know I write about the place every autumn, but it's different this year. The 'old' Aldeburgh festival has wound down since the demise of The Poetry Trust. In its place is the new 'Poetry in Aldeburgh' run by a fresh group of people who want to keep an annual poetry festival going. Lots of people have asked me what the 'new' festival is like and as you can't do that in a tweet, it's time to do some good old fashioned typing in more than 140 characters. I have dotted this post with a few photos, but there are more on my Instagram account. You might have to scroll down if you're reading this in a couple of weeks time!
Firstly, it's all by the sea this time. No coach journeys to Snape. To confuse matters, back in the day, the festival was always by the sea, but they went over to Snape - a great big auditorium. Now it's cosy again and set in the village. This means you can actually wonder about the pebble beach at your leisure and be all heightened and poetic if you wish. On the Sunday I think there was swimming and a poetry reading led by Fiona Moore, but I was probably eating my toast in the warm at that point.
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I arrived on the Friday and that evening had a 'sea rose' at a viewing in the Peter Pears Gallery. Then went over to a reading by Blake Morrison and Anne Marie Fyfe. It was held in the Jubilee Hall, which is still a big venue by anyone's standards. Blake and Anne were a great start. I know Blake Morrison's work pretty well, and in particular the prose (Let's hear it for prose on the poetry blog!). I once interviewed him as a student in the last century and it's good to catch up every so often. Anne's work is very lyrical, dreamy and influenced by sea. Very appropriate!
Then I meandered around chatting and buying a couple of books from the lovely bloke who sells them second hand every year at the festival. I like how at poetry festival you often have 'annual' conversations with people. The next morning I went to a Poetry Society reading with Eric Berlin, Geraldine Clarkson and Ian Duhig. I am glad Ian read this poem from his latest book, 'The Blind Roadmaker':
I should mention the butterfly. There was a Peacock butterfly who'd used the Hall as a hibernating spot. He/she kept on fluttering around during various readings and often landing on the poets. It was a joy to finally hear Hannah Lowe read at 'The Rialto' launch. She was brill. Later on I also discovered Matthew Hollis who was reading alongside Tom Paulin. I remembered Tom Paulin from late night arty things and he certainly had presence. Oh and there was a 'secret' reading, Ok, not really a secret, just not on the programme, at the very posh Brudenell Hotel by Charlotte Gann. She was launching 'Noir' published by Happenstance. It is a beautiful, sinister collection. You may remember from previous episodes that I have a pamphlet out with HappenStance so it was great to catch up with Nell Nelson. There was a little wine too.
That evening there was peppermint tea in the Peter Pears Gallery. There was a sort of hub where the organisers were gathered and members of The Poetry School and The Poetry Society had stalls. Thank you Sophie Baker for the chats. This year I made a great companion in Alison Brackenbury. Thank you Alison for your company and the snacks! It is very difficult to eat properly at festivals. Food is appreciated.
Next morning was Sunday and normally I drive off home but I went to 'The Poetry Review' editors talk with Emily Berry, Kayo Chingonyi, Maurice Riordan and the butterfly. Maurice Riordan is the ex-editor. Emily Berry is now in charge. The butterfly was chief wing-flapper. They (not butterfly) talked about their choices for the magazine, what the editing role involved and answered questions from the floor. I can't really give you any hints or secrets about getting into the magazine. Mainly you have to write a poem that the editors like! Emily Berry read her chosen one about a goldfish, so off you go.
In conclusion... 'Poetry in Aldeburgh' is a much smaller festival. There is a lot more breathing space. I found myself popping back to the room a bit for tea during the day and spending more time exploring around the beach. I don't think it's fair to compare the festivals. I still saw many familiar faces around and I do think the concept of a poetry festival is very important for Aldeburgh and Suffolk. The big draw is the fact that you're by the sea. I do miss the crowds and the buzz of Snape Aldeburgh, but I like the sea air and relaxed atmosphere of the new one. I think the organisers have done a very good job and it looks like 2017 is going to happen. I really want to go, it's such a special location and a lovely place for poetry.
BTW I was going to write this post earlier. Of course I was, yes really, but that Trump fellow got in the way the week after and then, y'know, life. 2016 has been interesting... As for me, I've read a lot, but slowed down as a writer. If I don't make it back this side of 2017 then I wish you well. My new year's resolution is to get back on the poetic horse and gallop!