Ledbury Poetry Festival: part 1

Hello blog, it’s been a while.

Ledbury market hall

Ledbury market hall

When I went down to Ledbury for their poetry festival, I knew that I wouldn’t be on social media as much as usual since I wasn’t taking a laptop, just my phone.  What I didn’t realise was that my holiday cottage had very slow and intermittent mobile phone coverage, and the one internet cafe in town seemed to be perpetually occupied.  Yes, I could have figured out posting on my phone, but I really wasn’t that motivated to type that much on a touch screen.

So here’s part 1 of a (probably) 2-part account.

I booked my accommodation before the programme came out, and my trip was bookended by other immovable commitments, so I missed what would have been the first highlight of the festival for me (Owen Sheers).  The first event I went to was the slam in the Market Theatre on Saturday night.  It wasn’t full, but the audience was pretty enthusiastic.  There was a wide variety of performance styles, but it was the two slickest (and youngest) performance poets who made it to the final – Ben Norris and James Dalton.  I particularly liked Ben’s multiply-voiced nostalgia poem and James’s break-up poem in the final round, which he won by three points!  The poem that stayed with me most from the night, though, was Jill Abram’s ‘I’ve forgotten my father’.

I heard that Bang Said The Gun the following night had pretty similar performers in the open mic (with Ben Norris winning this time) but, as I said on twitter at the time, I only made it through seven minutes before I had to leave because of the noise.  After I tweeted that I thought it made me sound incredibly middle-aged and nimbyish, maybe I am!  Actually, I just have some sensory triggers (which may be an introvert thing) and I literally can’t be in a room full of klaxons and milk bottle shakers without bursting into tears, which would be no fun for anyone!  (Weirdly, I am much more tolerant of loud vocals and/or music.  Wonder what it is about shaker noises?) I did hear some good reviews.

I went to a fast-paced workshop about images on the Sunday morning, led by Paul Munden. It didn’t provide a lot of sustained writing time but did give me lots of ideas of how to use complementary or contrasting images to inspire or enhance poems.  And it was fun to sift through a load of postcards and see what kicked off poem ideas.  Interesting to see what happens when you write about one picture for a while then pull in another picture to spark unexpected connections!

Sunday’s highlight – and my highlight of the entire festival – was a craft talk by Jane Hirshfield about ‘arcs, leaps and transitions’.  She kept apologising for the dryness of her talk, while I was thinking ‘no!  this is exactly what I went to know!’   She gave a tremendously clear account of how to approach transitions in a poem, and in a collection, which gave me a lot to think about.  I think of all the things I did (and I have 4 more workshops to talk about), this might be the one that has the best impact on my poems!

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