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November 2010

Two InPrint poets at Aldeburgh

Posted by Tim Lenton on 11 November 2010 at 12:09 in Journal

Tags: aldeburgh caroline festival tim

Yellow sail in the Saturday sunset View image

For the second year running, two InPrint poets ran into each other at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival (November 5-7). With so many events on offer, it was hardly surprising that they were together in an audience only once. Here are their reactions.

Caroline Gilfillan

Who to see? What to choose? Those are the first questions. I started off with a short take from Luke Kennard, who suggested we add to our poet’s toolkit the courage to admit to envy, resentment and other ignoble emotions. “Tell it how it is,” was his message – one I agree with. My next encounter was with the poet and performer Inua Ellams, who held the audience captive with a one-man show that mingled poetry with magical realist story-telling.

After half an hour for a swift drink I was back to listen to Bernard Kops, Dorianne Laux and John Glenday. Bernard Kops’ moving tribute to the Whitechapel Library, Aldgate East kick-started a set that mixed sharp satire with recollections of a full poetic life, including a poem that recounted the story of finding Allen Ginsberg plus lover in his bed in Israel. Unmissable. Dorianne Laux gave us (among other things) a hymn to passionate honeymoon sex on a long road trip. John Glenday took us to all corners of the globe, including the Arctic shores of Baring Island.

Half an hour later I joined in the waves of laughter breaking round the hall as Elvis McGonagall read us his sharp and erudite poems. Then (what was I thinking of?) I hurried through the starry night to the Open Mic event. This offered up the usual mix of the banal, the bonkers and the beautiful. I got chased off the stage by Martin Figura in white gloves, as I approached the limits of each reader’s two-minute stage time. Splendid.

Sunday was quieter. I caught John Glenday’s appreciation of American Poet Laureate Kay Ryan, whose tribute to “Blandeur” concealed a sting beneath its sleek form. Finally, I sat in on the masterclass led by Bill Manhire which discussed poems by three upcoming young poets, and offered incisive thoughts on what were already excellent poems. Then it was home with a full notebook, and a full heart. I’ll definitely be back next year.

Tim Lenton

I started on the Friday night with three stunning poets, opening with J O Morgan, a Scot who won the first collection prize last year and has a rhythmic storytelling style that reminded me of Dylan Thomas but is very much his own; it was no surprise that his book had sold out by the second day. Then Matthew Caley, who engaged the audience with fresh wit and carefully crafted wisdom; and Don Paterson, with his tight, clean, rather academic style.

Don Paterson featured again on the Saturday, chairing a discussion on the poet’s toolkit which included Bill Manhire, Marie Howe and Lars Gustafsson. Some good stuff there, with stray remarks opening new gates. Later I heard John Irons on the difficulties of translating poetry: as a musician he was very concerned with getting the pulse right, but I wondered if the precision of the words wasn’t equally important. Excellent session.

The evening session was where I coincided with Caroline. John Glenday made the biggest impression me, but Bernard Kops was admittedly brilliant. Exhausted after two bad nights, I sadly had to miss Caroline’s late-night reading and the white gloves of Martin Figura, but I did make it to Don Paterson’s Sunday morning lecture on Robert Frost. This turned out to be rather esoteric but compelling enough, especially if you bought into his philosophy, which I didn’t.

All-in-all, an exciting weekend. Like Caroline, I hope to return next year – and run into her again.

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