‘Too many people in the modern world view poetry as a luxury, not a necessity like petrol. But to me it’s the oil of life.’- Sir John Betjeman
Off I went, on a walk about the late Poet Laureate John Betjeman. Although originally from London, Betjeman spent many holidays in Trebetherick, North Cornwall and later moved here with his family. It was in this village that Betjeman became a part of the community – as we visited people’s homes on the walk, they welcomed us with open arms.
Everybody was so eager to tell us stories about John’s life and their connections to him, in fact,that the walk took longer than expected. We sat down in each house and listened to the history and memories surrounding this poet. Continue reading →
It is 10.30 am on a damp, wild day in North Cornwall. I am sitting in a marquee, beset at every turn by industrious money spiders, making their own pattern-poems with their little black bodies on the white expanse of my paper. The event begins with Eduard Heyning’s improvised, mellow soprano sax, coursing a late-night jazz sound poem into the wet veins of this early morning.
Victoria Field and Philip Wells recite their poetry to us. Their work is worlds apart. Field uses what she refers to as “little words”– a reference to a quote from Wendell Berry: “The little words that come out of the silence like prayers”. It is almost a paean to Victoria’s poems; friendly whispers that catch you when you’re least expecting it. Wells is the masculine voice to Victoria’s feminine quietude. His words roar right inside you: shake you to your core. Wells’ poems are fast-paced, loud, everything opposite to Field, and yet neither is less powerful.
Each recitation is brought to a close (or alternatively, introduced) by a sound poem from Heyning. As one of the audience later tells me: “his music clears your mind in between these two very different poets.” My favourite sound poem is what sounds to me like a heated argument, a two-and-fro between a very light, feminine voice and a rough, deep masculine voice. While Wells and Field are in accordance, the piece nevertheless seems relevant. Continue reading →
I am led into a small, red room – a dramatic setting for my Bibiliotherapy session with Ella Berthoud, who is dressed in a long, sweeping tunic in a shimmering green; I can’t help but feel like there might be some sorcery afoot.
Settled on a scarlet throw, we begin.
One thing that amazes me is the way Berthoud seems able to pull almost any book out of her head and talk about it. She’s a human library.
We talk about my current reading habits and I tell her about the pile of YA fiction by my bed at home. To best describe my relationship with books I show her my tattoo of Edgar Allan Poe. I tell her how reluctant I’ve been to read contemporary fiction. I tell her about my dad. His current health problems. How it scares me.
I’m surprised how easily I find it to talk to her.