North Cornwall Book Festival 2014: catch-up with all our coverage

We published lots of blogposts over the weekend: catch up with them all here

Interviews

Reports on talks, sessions and workshops

Personal responses and creative writing

My favourite book: festival-goers and authors share their favourite volume

Our brilliant festival team was: Jay Armstrong, Sarah Purnell, Annie Harrison, Anna Cathenka, Aysha Bryant, Shannan Sterne, Sarah Cave, Emma Gibbs, Paige Davis and David Brady. Thanks also to Sorrel Watson for her interview.

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Poem: On Finding the Library in a Stranger’s House

The team from the Falmouth’s School of Writing and Journalism have been camped out in Trefelix, the beautiful Arts & Crafts house at the centre of the festival. We’ve been working in the house’s library, which is a lovely family room with ceiling-to-floor shelves filled with family reading. After spending Saturday working amongst the books, Anna wrote a poem reflecting on that experience.

By Anna Cathenka

Unfamiliar shelves in unfamiliar rooms
draw my attention in the quiet hours.
I pick up, browse backs
passing pint to left hand, a book
fits where a cigarette is lacked.
These wrinkled, well-loved worlds
who are untold to me. And then,
winking from across the room
an old friend, A Modern Herbal,
echo of my childhood. So sudden
the well-known spines appear
amongst the strangers; Wyndham,
Chatwin, sixties Pan Books
of Neville Shute, C.S. Lewis,
The Silmarillion, nineties
Bill Bryson (this one signed)
Wild Swans, Stieg Larsson,
Hemingway,
Harry Potter, Terry Pratchett,
faded Frank Herberts. My pint,
back in my right –
now more a quarter-pint –
sinks wistfully as I wonder:
“a house with books is never
without friends.”

 

Victoria Field Workshop: The Poetry Cure

By Annie Harrison

I’m sitting in the cosy Stone Barn at St Endellion on Saturday afternoon, out of the October winds, awaiting the start of Victoria Field’s poetry therapy workshop. St Endellion is a little way from the main site for North Cornwall Book Festival at Trebetherick, and surrounded by open fields, which seems quite fitting considering the subject of this session with Victoria Field. Like most of my fellow workshoppers, I have never formally considered poetry therapy before. Now, we’re here to experience it for ourselves.

Victoria Field qualified as a Poetry Therapist in 2005 with the International Federation of Biblio-Poetry Therapy, a group educating people about biblio and poetry therapy, as well as training prospective therapists all over the world. Poetry therapy offers people a way, through writing, to: “heal the past, live the present, and create the future.”

There are about nine of us in the Stone Barn, sitting around two wooden tables pushed together, and for almost three hours we write. We write until our pens ran dry and the pages are full. Field gives us prompts and time restraints: write an acrostic poem, write about “here, now”, write starting with the word “look” and so on. We write about life, the weather, cooking, anything that pops into our heads soon hits the page.

As well as giving us prompts, Field also provides us with props in the form of plants picked and found. We are asked to write addressing our pieces of plants as “you”. Granted this may sound a bit out there, but it leads you to places you can’t predict. Here is some of what I wrote addressing my plant:

You remind me of the stories my Dad used to read to me when I was younger. Stories from Enid Blyton’s Tales of Green Hedges, all about pixies and garden creatures. How the fairies used dandelion seeds, like the ones stuck in your stems, to float away in the breeze.  

For me it certainly acted as a release, and allowed me to gain a new perspective on the subjects I’d written about during the session. As Field told us, writing in this way externalises what’s in your head, clearing out the space for new thoughts and new feelings.

You can find out more about Victoria Field and poetry therapy at http://poetrytherapynews.com

The fiction of Murray and Haig

Tiffany Murray and Matt Haig
Tiffany Murray and Matt Haig onstage. Picture: Annie Harrison

By Annie Harrison

What happens when you give two authors an hour to sit on stage in big armchairs and talk? Firstly they rearrange the furniture! And secondly, in Patrick Gale’s words, it gives the audience a chance to “eavesdrop” on an uncensored, unscripted chat that leads them right into the depths of human nature.

Tiffany Murray and Matt Haig read from their books, chatted about childhood, life and writing. Reading from Diamond Star Halo, Tiffany Murray recalled her childhood growing up by a record studio used by Queen which fed into her story of rockstars and romance. Matt Haig read his new novel, The Humans, about a Cambridge mathematics professor who was not all as human as he seems; delving into the elements of what it is to be a human in this world through the eyes of aliens.

So that’s what happens when you let authors talk for an hour, and eventually someone has to stop them!

John Betjeman walk around Trebetherick

Betjeman walk
The North Cornwall coast from Trebetherick. Picture: Aysha Bryant

By Aysha Bryant

‘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

Responses to The Poetry of Wells and Field

By Anna Cathenka

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

The Novel Cure: a literary prescription to ease your woes

The Novel Cure
The Novel Cure: Sarah receives her literary prescription. Picture: Sarah Purnell

By Sarah Purnell

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.

Continue reading