Saturday 7 November 2015

Aldeburgh Poetry Festival 2015 (Post 2)

We have just returned from a second day at Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. We were mainly out at Aldeburgh, where there were some strong autumn gusts at lunch time by the iconic Scallop, followed by a stormy panorama as we left the town on our journey back to Snape this evening.

Highlights included an excellent and lively talk by John Burnside on the poetry of birds. We were riveted by his selected bird poems from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and by his engaging commentary. I particularly connected with the poems by Edward Thomas and Marianne Moore.

Alison Brackenbury delivered a delightful reading and brought great illumination to 'Christmas' by John Clare from December in The Shepherd's Calendar.

I have been particularly thrilled to find much of this year's poetry linking back to the land in a variety of ways. This, of course, is a personal preference, and perhaps it is not surprising that land in all its guises (edges, boundaries, borders, soil, seasons, owned land and wilderness ...) has played a significant part when you consider that one of the official festival themes for 2015 is 'poetry and freedom'.

Perhaps my ear was acutely attuned to this current (was it an overcurrent or an undercurrent? The emphasis seemed to waver) as a result of my visit only three days ago to the extraordinary exhibition of Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy.  

Friday 6 November 2015

Aldeburgh Poetry Festival 2015 (Post 1)


So here we are once again in the throes of the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, and judging by the number of people standing during events, it seems that poetry is alive and well here in the east.

I spent the afternoon at a poetry workshop on the theme of led by Peter Sirr. It took place in the extraordinary surroundings of The Red House.

My second event was a Craft Talk, delivered by one of the 2014 Faber New Poets, Zaffar Kunial. The poet took us through selected texts, including two versions, a 'before' and 'after', of his own. He demonstrated how the writers had created a sense of balance and space (or perhaps 'distance').

My final event of the day was to have been Richard Mabey, who had to withdraw from the festival. In his absence, John Burnside and Helen Macdonald read from their respective books and held a lively conversation about a number of ecological and natural world issues, touching on taxonomy and the naming of species, the pros and cons of re-wilding and the question of mass (the importance of regaining vast numbers of e.g. insects) or diversity (the importance of keeping as wide a range of wildlife as possible). 

I look forward to another round of talks tomorrow, and a second chance to mingle with poets from far and near. I also hope to catch a breath of bracing sea air and to do a bit of book browsing.

My thanks to Ellen McAteer and all those at The Poetry Trust who have worked so hard on behalf of those of us who wish to come together to share poetry in all its rainbow guises.

Feather, Aldeburgh beach