On Saturday, I travelled up to Leeds with Leicester poet Roy Marshall for the Stand60 events being held at the university.
First among these was a masterclass with poet Ian Duhig. We’d all supplied a poem in advance, and Ian then gave feedback on what he felt did and didn’t work about it. Given the number of us there, it equated to about 10 minutes per poem (that’s actually quite a lot, when you’re considering one of your own poems intensely), but he packed an incredible amount in. By the end of three hours I had pages of notes, and not just about poetic technique and the like. If you know Ian’s books you’ll know that one of the great pleasures of them is his ability to move seamlessly from ‘high’ to ‘low’ culture, and to make connections between seemingly disparate pieces of information.
I’d sent a recently-written piece that I’d put aside to go back to later, and I ended up reworking it yesterday along the lines Ian suggested. Essentially, it just feels leaner, harder-working now, and far more like the poem I originally had in mind.
In the afternoon, we went to a couple of the readings. I particularly enjoyed Elizabeth Baines’s short story and David Gaffney’s flash fiction, while in the poetry section, Vahni Capildeo and Alison Brackenbury were the highlights. It’s always good to catch up with Alison, and I owe her a great debt of gratitude for all her help in the past, but this was actually the first time I’d heard her read. It didn’t disappoint – she achieved what, I think, are the two hardest feats to manage at any reading, namely to make each individual poem and the reading itself feel perfectly paced.