I've spent the best part of the last week thoroughly immersed in poetry, and it's really not a bad place to be (provided it's good poetry, of course).
It all started, of course, with StAnza 2011. It was my first visit to Scotland's top poetry festival, but it won't be my last. It's an extremely friendly event, for starters, in a great location that's compact enough to make it easy to dash around between events. And like any festival, it's excellent for catching up with old friends, or meeting others who you've only previously known through a computer screen or their writing. So, in between events, I managed a couple of pints with HappenStancer James W Wood (he's got a novel coming out soon - more on that later), a rushed coffee with Rob Mackenzie, a quick word with Penelope Shuttle, plenty of chat with poetry dynamo Jo Bell, and many more.
But of course, that would all count for nothing if the events weren't up to scratch. Not a problem, though. Highlights included readings by Billy Letford (both at the first night's open mic, and at the Young Poets' Showcase) and Iraqi poet Adnan Al-Sayegh, the rest of the aforementioned Showcase (with Claire Askew, Sarah Howe and Ellen Cranitch), and two fine 'round table readings', by Tom Pow and Paul Farley. The former read from his work on dying villages, but also delved deeper into the subject, while Farley bravely presented us with the drafts of his poem Treacle and considered various aspects of the creative process.
My own reading, with Dawn Wood, went well. There seemed to be just the right amount of overlap between us where subject matter was concerned, the audience were excellent, and the books seemed to sell well. Anyway, more on StAnza in the weeks to come - I've got a few pics to sort out.
On Saturday, I was at States of Independence at De Montfort University in Leicester. It's a chance for small presses to parade their wares, but again a lot of its value is also in allowing you to meet people and simply get some idea of the wealth of talent out there outside the big presses. I did a brief reading as part of the Nine Arches Press talk, and also heard a fine reading by CJ Allen and Alan Baker (unfortunately Ernesto Priego couldn't make it).
Finally, I spent the rest of the weekend browsing the pile of books and panphlets I bought at the two events. They were:
The Deleted Part - Adnan Al-Sayegh
A Certain Chinese Encyclopedia - Sarah Howe
The Mermaid And The Sailors - Claire Askew
Songs From A Dying Village - Tom Pow
States of Independence
Connoisseur - Dawn Wood
The Present Day - Ernesto Priego
The Road To Murreigh - Paul McLoughlin
Variations On Painting A Room: Poems 2000-2010 - Alan Baker
A Strange Arrangement: New And Selected Poems - C J Allen
All My Eye & Betty Martin - John Lucas (not poetry, this one, but excellent)