Cornwall Contemporary Poetry Festival started for me on the Sunday. Mistake! I missed Kei Miller on the Saturday as well as Imtiaz Dharker and Penny Shuttle and Greta Stoddart. But on Sunday, I discovered Katrina Naomi who read from her marvellous poetry books, The Girl with the Cactus Handshake and Charlotte Bronte’s Corset as well as new poems. Next up was David Morley who read from his latest bewitching book and a long narrative poem that was like a spell. Although I had to crane my neck, ears and eyes to hear him it was only because I couldn’t bear to lose a word. He does voices in different voices and they come out at you from the words of the poem as if you are in a room with the characters and you have gone back in time. You think you are there.
Okay, I messed up and missed some great things but I have never heard a reading as electrifying as that! Here are some more of his poems. Here’s a bit of one:
Do you ever tell lies, Wisdom?’ ‘All the long day through, brother,’
laughs the Gypsy. He lights his long pipe beneath his hat’s brim.
‘But the brassest of lies’ – the Gypsy plucks – ‘are like this heather:
a charm against visible harm and’ – he crushes it – ‘invisible harm.’
And the friends look at each other across the invisible stage of grass.
You might like to read this about the genesis of The Virgin and the Gipsy.
After that came a fascinating discussion between Kei, Katrina and David, expertly and knowledgeably chaired by Simon Williams, on the question, ‘ Do poets have to be performers?’ And their answer was Yes! And how they had all individually worked at it and grown with and through this process opened up doors for me.
Having watched the ‘mystery performer’ – a stilt-walker wearing a cactus costume and a huge flower on his head those of us who had chosen the David Morley workshop hopped aboard a ferry to take us up the Tamar to the Cotehele Estate to find natural shapes and rhythms and sounds from which to fashion poems. We were writing on the ferry as it chugged upriver, and again as soon as we landed and we met up briefly in an old chapel in the woods and then we had to find small poems in small things we found on the way back and we wrote some more in the ferry. Breath-snatching!
Guess what though? I had to miss the Katrina Noemi workshop because a choice had to be made. Why can’t I be in two places at once?
Thank you very much to all the committee of Cornwall Contemporary Poetry Festival and I look forward to the next one in two years time.