Warning: This is longer than my usual blogs as it is trying to cover the Poetry Swindon weekend, rather than just Quiet Compere event.
I knew before I arrived at Poetry Swindon this was going to be the friendliest place to spend my 40th birthday weekend having met a lot of the crew at a Jo Bell, 52 workshop and reading day in Birmingham in January. I was collected from the station by Maurice, then I symbolically posted some work receipts. After we had negotiated the ‘roundabout complex of Swind’ Maurice showed me to my Holiday Inn room.
After rainbow-painting my nails I went over to the Richard Jeffries Museum. I arrived to a loving welcome and hugs from all directions. Friends from Exeter and Bristol, Oxford and Liverpool, Birmingham and Stone. And Swindon. Oh, and there was mulled wine. Hilda went to check if it was ready and there was one in my hand within five minutes. I walked into the Tent Palace of Delicious Air and found more friends there. I perched on a leather bean-bag with my mascot, Kendal. Stephen and Mark were jealous of my nails. After four hours travelling I was there and slightly dazed. I marvelled at the wall hangings, lectern and lighting.
I had to source a big stick shaped like a moose before Quiet Compere started and parked this outside The Sun Inn warning a local not run off with it, unless he wanted to write a poem about a moose and use it to perform that! This is the poem it was for and it is dedicated to Hilda and all the work, love and fun she pours into Poetry Swindon:
The hysteria that comes
I find it often melts Frank and I
and we are lost for minutes.
Then, back even better for it.
I get the same with my brothers,
even though I see them
half a dozen times a year.
The easy hilarity of closeness.
Not so often alone,
though on Sunday
I found a small dead tree
lifted it into life
for five minutes.
Held it to my forehead
and ran around the field
pretending to be a moose.
Photo by Mark Farley
I did a ten minutes set myself. Not that Quiet Compere then, but a few friends said “We want to hear more of you!” and I didn’t take much encouragement to step up there and give them ten minutes. I enjoyed reading some of the poem-a-thon poems I had rediscovered on the train and quite a lot of new stuff, never read.
Julia Webb gave us a bee-dress you could wear in humming praise of summer. Julia’s collection is called ‘Bird Sisters’ and she invented sisters and told us about the one who stayed up all night at the crematorium plaiting flowers into your mother’s hair. and water as ‘an inside out, a nothingness.’ and ‘The moon thinks of itself as an emergency’.
Catch Julia here: http://juliawebb.org/blog/
Anna-May Laugher: read us a Wile Coyote poem a cartoon mother should never look down. and fitting with National Poetry day theme of the day earlier: the word message has its own chaos. In ‘The Crosby Men’ the line even my tears decay you hits me hard.
More about Anna-May: http://www.petersfieldwriteangle.co.uk/guests_annamay.html
I enjoyed the imaginary sister poem and the phrases mizzle morning, craggy ground and a clattering charm of jackdaws. Loved her dress too.
Susan has/is running workshops using the contemporary ceramics exhibition as inspiration . The link is here: http://swindonmuseumandartgallery.org.uk/event/from-where-im-standing/
Susan’s web-page: http://www.susanutting.com/
In ‘Surburbian Alien VHS.’ Sam was playing science like conkers, smashing apart and noticing beautiful irrelevancies like 16mm film. Another poem about Leaving Swindon called ‘In my absence’ he gives us the advice to let anything grow that does not stunt another. And from ‘After the swings’: not forgetting how high/we swung. Where you landed.
Sam interviews Robert Peake here: http://www.robertpeake.com/archives/poet/sam-loveless
I love the fact there could be something so important I will want to press the creases out of all my clothes for the week. I don’t own an iron and relate to this. I was only talking about Gladiators and trying you name them last week and Angie talks of watching Jet from Gladiator with quiche and jam tarts.
Find Angie here: https://angiebelcher.wordpress.com/
Quiet Compere: Hilda Sheehan took over as host for the second half
Hilda read us a couple of poems and in the middle of Hilda’s tube poem about her first vibrator the lights went out. I think she had intended the black-out as it resulted in some memorable photos. We may have overloaded the electrics with heaters and lighting and mic, but I like to think it was the shock of Hilda’s poem that did it.
Here’s Hilda: http://hildasheehanpoetry.blogspot.co.uk/
The attention to detail in ‘Home and Away’ stuns me, especially the line and when I moved afar he expanded his research accordingly, learned my temperature, precipitation, wind speed, and humidity. And from ‘And Now for a Kind of Song’:
a tune one murmurs in distraction, without thought
a song in the body, the body in Illinois
These are from Carrie’s manuscript in progress, ‘The Weather in Normal.’
Carrie is here: http://www.carrieetter.com/
Nick tells us I meet you where waves end, where tears begin. And in ‘Bewildered Nick’ that I have heard before but is always a listening pleasure where death and bewildered Nick are subject to a horse-racing commentary style poem and death always wins by exactly one length.
Nick co-host a new night in Swindon here: https://www.facebook.com/OoohBeehive/
Cristina immerses us into a world of gaps and bones with style and charm. Cristina requested I not share her lines.
Read some poems by Cristina here: https://cristinanewton.wordpress.com/
I fell for the idea of telling your mistakes you love them. And his instructions of how to act in nuclear war poem, particularly fold the tea. Wow and a pop-song duration remains. His poem about a friend who died was difficult to listen to, especially the line Volume up. Brightness up. And the moths her children in the wardrobe sit between cotton and wool./I tease. Watch you turn to dust.
Had his set hijacked by exes in the days before there are none more circumspect than former lovers. In his poem ‘The Game Parade’ there is no place more dangerous than the recent past… long joined up stories/like railway carriages…one derail/ could uncouple everything.
Website here: http://mauricespillane.ie/
Mark Farley (Photographer):
OK, so I am usually proud of the photos I manage to get at Quiet Compere events, but someone did it better this time. Mark Farley, I like the internal rhyme in his name too. Go on, repeat it a few times. See what I mean? Also, this meant I have a dozen or so photos of me reading, with my ‘moose’ stick and listening in the audience (was a little concerned about this because I am not always sure what my watching face looks like). He has probably kept the gurning ones for bribery purposes, I know I do.
In the interval Sam led me to the kitchen, where there was a large box of ale, I thought he meant I could have a pint or two. “No, he said, it is all for you A birthday gift from me!” Ah! The loveliness continued again and again all weekend. I may or may not have had a constant half in my hand for most of Saturday and this meant I missed having an evening meal with John and Nina, but it also meant I got to have some of Maurice’s excellent curry and get a lift into town for the evening sessions.
Poetry Swindon link: http://www.poetryswindon.org/
Andrew McMillan’s honesty workshop made me cry twice, but I came out with six new, strong, tough poems that may not have existed unless I had pushed myself to higher levels on honesty than I usually pour into my poetry. Anne-Marie Fyfe and Roy Marshall were both poets I had not heard or met before and Anne-Marie told us ‘the sea is always with me.’ I met an ant and beetle in the tent. Roy’s poems spoke to me as they were medical and post mortem (my 17 year NHS career came back through his words). I was a little distracted by Louise Campbell’s stunning red patent leather boots. Nina and I shared some of our poems from Andrew’s morning workshop on a bench near the boat in Richard Jeffries gardens.
I fully intended to join John and Nina for a meal in Swindon, but time trickled away in engaging conversations with a dozen poets and the ale box slowly and constantly filled my half pint glass. Maurice arrived with his curries for the volunteers and I managed to wangle a portion before we all climbed into cars to go into Swindon for Keith Hutson’s Troupers, a show about the characters in the golden age of the entertainment industry and then Cristina and Daljit presented the Battered Moon awards, it was good to see friend, Ken Evans won a prize in it.
Back at base we all gathered in the Tent Palace and then in Hilda’s Lounge. I was handed a Babysham in a Babysham glass and Sam and Mark kept topping my pints up from the never ending ale box. I turned forty in a lounge that looked like my childhood among a raft of old and new friends and hugs and kisses were everywhere. I decided to spend the night in the Tent Palace and Sam piled up the blankets and asked me if I was sure I wanted to stay out? I did, and woke up on the morning of my birthday in the luscious tent. To be honest, I slept very little, it was cold and uncomfortable and around 5am I decided to go back to my Holiday Inn bed and grab an hour or two of sleep, before returning to the Museum to find Mike Pringle making me a bacon sandwich and Sophie and Tess had baked and decorated a cake for me. I was given a medal for services to Richard Jeffries Museum and a bunch of flowers from the festival. I left notes of love, thanks, the rest of ale and a couple of beer-mats with poems on and Quiet Compere badges as thankyous to all the lovely people at Poetry Swindon. I exchanged lots of goodbye hugs before a lot of friends went into Daljit Nagra Masterclass. I walked by the lake and returned to find the masterclassers had been released for a break and I gathered another bunch of hugs before Maurice drove me back to catch my train.
I left with a Swindon Skin and will be back very soon
I will leave you on a final line from Maurice Spillane: like the sun may catch you, hallowed in the dark room and wonder at the magic of it.