I feel my recent silence in the blogosphere needs some explaining. For the past fortnight, I've been nursing a bad neck strain, negotiating the world at eye-level gaze. Even neck swathed in scarves, peering at my keyboard aggravated it so blogging was out.
Luckily, I was able to rehearse my revived show STORIES DRUMMED TO POLAR SKIES. I was thrilled to be appearing this weekend as one of the headlining acts at the Polyverse festival. On Friday evening, I played to a very responsive audience in the Martin Hall theatre at Loughborough University. It was great to be doing this show in a theatre space again, with Saami music drifting over the PA and dramatic lighting to capture the mood of these arctic stories. At the end, one audience member said she wanted me to rerun the PowerPoint images and replay the whole thing; poems, music, auroral physics and all. Now that's what a poet loves to hear.
Polyverse was my first ever poetry festival and I was completely smitten. I heard some stunning poetry, bought a heap of books and chatted with editors and jobbing poets from across the country and beyond. It was especially good to finally meet my lovely editor from Original Plus, Sam Smith, down all the way from Cumbria. The festival lived up to its name with an astonishing range of styles and voices and subjects. I particularly enjoyed the other 'arctic poet', Susan Richardson, whose vivid performance was a revelation. I am so envious of her journeys to Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland and her poetry found a magnetic resonance in my bones:
'It's a force that's attracted to the North in her,
the thunder of summer light,
the blood of explorers in the tundra,
the tilting cap of ice.'
There were many other very engaging readers, including some startlingly talented young poets, and of course, Carol Ann Duffy was sublime. A consummate storyteller, here is no declaiming. Her delivery is sly and taut and draws us in to collude in her mischief. The hair is all dark flames. She has a way of holding back on the last line, leaning into the mike and loosing that killer phrase with a glint in her eye. Her wicked narrative poem, 'The Laughter of Stafford Girls High' , rang a real bell with me from my own Catholic girls' schooling. This was delivered in separate slices to keep us begging for more. And then the moving sonnets of Rapture to finish. Here in the lover's 'Row', Duffy's images are so astonishing and right and conjured for me that stomach-pit feeling:
'But when we rowed,
the room swayed and sank down on its knees,
the air hurt and purpled like a bruise,
the sun banged the gate in the sky and fled.'
On Sunday I attended 2 really useful workshops on 'what to write' with Pam Thompson and 'who to ask' with Damien Walters of the Literature Network re. resources, funding, publishing etc. So I feel I got a glimpse of the whole poetry landscape. We were incredibly lucky to have this festival on our doorstep and let's hope this is the first of what will become a long tradition. I'm indebted to Radcliff Gregory for his vision of it and also Kerry Featherstone who steered this rambling herd of poets in the right direction all weekend. Fabulous!
Now I would mention Lyric Lounge, that other great spoken word event in Leicester, running all this week - but my neck is starting to do that twisty, creaking thing. More later ...
Writing is a journey, both imaginary and physical. My first book took me to the Arctic to 'catch the colours' of the Northern Lights. Then I hunkered down to catch the wind-blown voices of polar explorers on Shackleton's 1914-17 Endurance expedition. More recently I'm obsessed by space: the race, the rockets, the final frontier.
Hear a BBC Radio Leicester interview about my space poetry at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03wfpyp
Explore my digital narrrative PHILAE'S BOOK OF HOURS, published by the European Space Agency, at:
My prose-poetry collections FIREBRIDGE TO SKYSHORE
and MAD, HOPELESS & POSSIBLE are both published by Original Plus Press at:
Contact me for signed copies or bookings at:
- Leicester, East Midlands
- As a storyteller, my work crosses boundaries of myth, science, history and spoken word. It has been presented in the British Science Museum, Ledbury Poetry Festival, National Space Centre and the European Space Agency website. In 2014 I ran a digital residency on WW1 for 14-18NOW and Writing East Midlands. I teach Creative Writing at De Montfort University and have experience of leading school events, workshop tuition and mentoring.