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.

Advertisements

Like Lime Through Feathers: Lavinia Greenlaw at the North Cornwall Book Festival

Sarah Cave

I was excited to be covering Lavinia Greenlaw’s reading at this weekend’s North Cornwall Book Festival. Her poetry is beautiful. Last Autumn I discovered her smooth, complex verse in a volume that put Greenlaw’s poetry side by side with the journals of William Morris during his travels in Iceland.

There is a comfortable, gentle atmosphere in the Betjeman Marquee where Greenlaw is due to speak. People are holding copies of her new collection, A Double Sorrow, Troilus and Criseyde, a response and a rewriting of Chaucer’s famous work. The books re-emerge later in the bookshop during a signing session.

Greenlaw reads a selection of her Chaucer-inspired poems. She tells the audience that rather than translating Chaucer’s (or Boccacio’s) story she wanted to “clean out the language.” Her verses are clean and precise and flow musically. Although the book is in rhyme royal seven-line verse, from page to page, the language lilts effortlessly.  Continue reading

In pictures: John Betjeman walk around Trebetherick

Yesterday, Aysha Bryant went for a walk around Trebetherick celebrating the late Poet Laureate John Betjeman’s love for the village and this area of North Cornwall. You can read her blogpost about the experience here. Below you’ll find some pictures she took on her travels.

Aysha Bryant at St. Enodoc Church in Trebetherick, North Cornwall
St. Enodoc Church in Trebetherick, North Cornwall
St. Enodoc Church in Trebetherick
Aysha Bryant at St. Enodoc Church in Trebetherick, North Cornwall
ohn Betjeman's grave at St. Enodoc Church in Trebetherick
John Betjeman’s grave at St. Enodoc Church in Trebetherick. Picture: Aysha Bryant

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

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