Alyson Hallett is the new Featured Writer with some poems from her stunning new collection, Suddenly Everything, published by Poetry Salzburg. Astonishing yet apparently effortless and both erudite and agile is how I would describe them. Then there is the cover which perhaps suggests Alyson’s perspective! She is very much a poet of the land, of Devon and Cornwall and of faraway places in the world and in the imagination.
Torbay Poetry Festival was held in a comfortable hotel beside the beautiful bay with its wild waves last weekend. This festival provides a wonderful forum for local and not-so-local poets to meet and share their love of poetry. I met up with people I haven’t seen for ages. Thanks to Patricia Oxley (editor of Acumen) it also attracts to Devon some famous names. This year it was Gillian Clarke who was a revelation to me (yes, I’m behind the times but am catching up now) who read from her collection, Ice, which was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize. A warm and friendly reader Gillian Clarke really shares her poems with her audience: poems about her childhood, about learning Welsh with her father, about a bereaved male swan who can’t be told his mate is dead, (like someone with dementia). I can still hear her Welsh accents in my imagination: it lends such lilt and tone to her poems. The sound of them, even now I have forgotten the actual words, is still ringing in my thoughts. She is published by Carcanet.
The next evening (the night of St Jude’s) it was Helen Dunmore and Andy Brown, such a strange combination I had thought until hearing them! Andy opened with his beautiful poem Clown in Space: ‘the blue planet turns like a plate on a stick’ and continued with his allotment poems and one from The Storm Berm. A new poem about the death of his father, a man of few words and yet an accomplished public speaker, was simply stunning. Andy told me it is to appear in The Warwick Review. His new collection is coming out next year with Worple Press. Helen Dunmore read more quietly, her tender and precise poems dovetailing neatly with those of Andy Brown. She read her very vivid and powerful poem called The Duration that appears in Carol Ann Duffy’s anthology on WW1 (If I should die) You can find the text of it here. Outside, the window the rain lashed and the wind began to wind itself up!
And the next morning I read in a sunlit room beside a grand piano in Lupton House which is a beautiful house going back to Domesday, being restored by a local trust on the outskirts of Brixham. I am grateful to generous Patricia Oxley for giving me this opportunity and, indeed, for the whole Festival. I shall be at Fire River Poets as part of Taunton Literary Festival next Thursday too! And on Nov 19th in the big smoke. (What on earth has happened? Back to being a recluse on Dartmoor after that!)