Saturday, May 29, 2010

Postcard from the Spring Thing

Book festivals can drag on.  Week after week of literary celebrities hawking their wares and pretending they weren't just asked the same questions down the road at Hay/Cheltenham/Oxford/insert name of bookish town.  Birmingham book festival usually happens in October and follows a similar template, but their Spring Thing - a festival in a day - made a refreshing change.

Apologies for the photo, but literary events aren't really visual are they?  So we'll have to make do with Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy signing a book.  And yes, that stage would be better suited to an orchestra mainly because we were in a concert hall.  So the acoustics for the readings were very good.  As was the poetry and prose read out and discussed.

The other benefit of the short programme meant no concurrent sessions, so I went to everything and was exposed to a lot of authors I hadn't previously read.  The first session saw two authors of historical fiction (Judith Allnatt and Clare Clark) talk about the opportunities their research opened up and the liberties they took with it. Then a panel discussion between Amanda Smyth, Samantha Harvey and Aifric Campbell explored common themes of loss in their work and whether this is a modern narrative trend as opposed to the 'making good' of some classic works.  Stuart Maconie perhaps has it easy; no research or imagination required, his personality is his device and with the material of all England to comment on, there was plenty to laugh at.  England as a theme appeared again in one of Jo Bell's poems which comprised the results of a text/email poll of her friends asking them to define what England meant to them.  The poem's refrain of '...and pubs, and rain...' was apparently what everyone said when they were done with their unique take on the English condition.  Wonder why?

Jo's other poems were equally entertaining, as well as emotional or surreal. Which made her readings a good partner to alternate with a disturbing, if amusing, short story in four parts by Nick Walker.  Carole Ann Duffy headlined, reprising some of her poems about wives of famous historical figures and presenting some new work; including painful reflections on the death of her mother.

Writers are a nosy bunch and justify a habit of eavesdropping by claiming it as research.  Well, prick up your ears on the 1st of July for a spot of creative eavesdropping.  See for a writing project everyone can get involved in.


Timberati said...

Ahhhh. I needed a postcard from K.

I know poetry is something we writers are supposed to like and use (something about the "denseness" or some such but not denseness of the audience I gather) but I cannot handle it. I'd rather be required to read nothing but Harlequin Romance novels for a decade than listen to an evening of poetry.

I do understand that people profess to like it. Ah, well, some people like beets too.

Thanks for the postcard.

postcardsfromk said...

Hi Norm
I don't enjoy poems which are too dense and impenetrable, but sometimes their brevity and precision is just the thing. And it's very hard to do well. Though I guess that could be said about any kind of writing.

As for beets, well I don't mind a bit of beetroot on the side of a slice of ham. My grandma made a lovely beetroot chutney. Maybe it's a bit like poetry: you have to hack at it until only the very best bit remains. Then be careful what you serve it with.


Lexi said...

I remember one first date; the young man took me to what turned out to be an evening of poetry reading, in Spanish. I don't understand Spanish.

That was our only date.

postcardsfromk said...

Can't believe he didn't even offer you beetroot to eat, Lexi. What was he thinking?

Poetry does often come across as being pretentious or elitist. I guess some people prefer it that way.