Thursday, 13 March 2014

Poetry, Novel, Retreat at Gladstones,

Catching up, and not sure where to start as so much is going on. Let's start with poetry. 

 First, a rather exciting and not a little frightening invitation to join a wonderful group of poets responding to the Sensing Spaces exhibition at The Royal Academy, then reading our work in situ. The invitation came from Ekphrasis, and the event which took place on 7th March is on the RA website here

Reading in Grafton Architects' installation, RA
Here I am reading in 'my' room, one of the two Grafton Architects' rooms, and the one which inspired me to write a poem called Transfiguration. If I read it once in the event, I read it sixty times, and I probably never ever want to read it out again - but goodness, what a learning curve.  I have had very little experience of reading my poetry at all - once at my launch, once at a little festival in Sussex, once at a charity anthology launch, a couple of times at prize-givings. That is all of five times - and at each of those the audience was fixed. Sitting down. Come to hear the poems. At this event, I had to ambush people, and, as you can see from the photo, they did not always want to be ambushed - but had other things to be getting on with. I now feel I've caught up though, and have the equivalent of at least thirty years' solid poetry-reading experience.
      It caused me to rethink, though - a real reappraisal of what the words are for - my poem was written  in memory of men of the Artists' Rifles, 28th Btn London Regiment, who fell in WW1 - and by the end of the two hours, I was very comfortable walking into a dimly lit space, just telling it to the 'walls' of the installation. They reminded me so much of the memorials to the missing along the Western Front as they must have been before names were carved on the stone. The words of the poem fell down them like the shadows, and that felt absolutely right. If people clapped, as they did now and again, it came as a shock. I aged, I aged...
      Huge thanks to the three Ekphrasis poets, the organisers and designers of the evening: Emer Gillespie, Catherine Smith and Abegail Morley. And thanks to those who read at the same event, but in other rooms mostly - Helen Ivory, Martin Figura, Caroline Davies, Patricia Debney, Maureen Jivani, Tamar Yoseloff, Sasha Dugdale, Edward MacKay ad Robert Peake -  and the work of Ian Duhig was read by actress Gemma Jones.

More poetry, more needing to read -  and the nice news that a poem called Graffiti has been shortlisted in the Sussex Poets Competition. All the shortlisted pieces have been awarded something, no idea what, it'll be lovely whatever.  I'll find out at a ceremony on 27th March, when I have to read again - and this time, I won't care at all.

In late February there was a rather glorious lit fest in Oxted, Surrey.  The programme included a short story panel chaired by Alison MacLeod, and panellists Tom Vowler, Dan Powell and Jane Gardam. I ended up as a panellist as Jane G was unable to come - and we had a terrific evening. I wrote to the orgaisers afterwards, saying that the way they had looked after us all was exemplary - Oxted ought to be the standard by which other lit fests are judged. We were dined, wined, our travel expenses covered, and we were paid!  The following day, Tea with VG - and a lovely event at which I talked and read for a while then enjoyed eating cake while signing books and trying not to get icing on the clean pages...loved every minute. The whole programme is here:

Further back in February - and Gladstones'! I spent a glorious whole ten days at Gladstone's Library, head down, finishing the next draft of the novel, which is now with my agent. Fingers crossed that there are not masses of revisions to do - I feel the need to get on with something else now. Gladstones' was just as wonderful as it was last September.

I'm going back in September to Gladfest, and can't wait - will be running an interesting event too, a discussion/workshop on creating/running a successful writing group.
      Did a post for their blog while I was there - on what it's like to write there when you are not a writer in residence. Follow the links round the website to find out about the wonderful things that this place puts on.

I went to Verdun on a battlefield visit - but I think that deserves its own post in due course.

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