Cornwall Contemporary Poetry Festival

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.   


About Rebecca Gethin

Rebecca Gethin is a poet and a novelist. Cinnamon Press published her third collection, All the Time in the World in 2017. Another pamphlet is forthcoming with Three Drops Press. Her second novel, What the horses heard, was published by Cinnamon Press in May 2014. Her second poetry collection - A Handful of Water - was published by Cinnamon in 2013. Her first - River is the Plural of Rain - was published by Oversteps Books in 2009. Her novel Liar Dice won the Cinnamon Press Novel Writing Award in 2010 and was published in 2011. She lives on Dartmoor and writes occasional pieces about wildlife and nature. Her poems appear in a variety of poetry magazines and in several anthologies.
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8 Responses to Cornwall Contemporary Poetry Festival

  1. E.E. Nobbs says:

    Thanks so much for your description of the festival! I checked out the links to David’s poems. Really enjoyed the shape and wording of the palindrome “Patrìn”. And I noted the point about poets needing to be performers. Must ponder that one.

    • Hi Elly and Stella,
      You are right of course. What I should have said on my post was that David Morley has had to overcome a painful stammer and uses the prop of his own music stand and he said, You must go into what you most fear. Katrina Naomi said she prepares very carefully about two days in advance and goes over each poem about twice, timing each one ( so do I) whilst Kei Miller said he needs the energy of not knowing what he is going to do as he walks up to the front and even reads from a blank piece of paper so the audience isn’t going to worry he is going to forget his words because he isn’t! David Morley has lots of voices he probably feels aren’t his! But you do feel they are there in the room. Hope that helps. They said if you want to get anywhere in the poetry world and if you want to let your poems speak and sing ( and of course DM’s poems are esp full of rhythm and energy and dialect) then you do need to read them out! Kei Miller said he wished the English would stop the performance of apology!!!! Does that help? Love Becky

  2. Stella Wulf says:

    Oooh, a bit scary that bit about poets needing to be performers! Poets are often shy, retiring people who prefer putting it down on paper rather than proclaiming it to the world. How does one become a performer?
    Sounds like you had a good productive week!

  3. Hi Becky, it’s Sarah! I’d love to come to one of your workshops one day. I’ll have a proper prowl round here soon, bit zzz after gardening 🙂

    • Oh, you found this! I love yours and hopefully have joined it??? I have just come in too (10pm ish) because midges are biting! I dont think you, Sarah, would like or even need my workshops! Whch one did you do on Sunday??? Your hosue looks beautiful. May I ask whereabouts in N Cornwall?

      • Thanks Becky. I did the David Morley one, I think you were there? Actually on the day I wasn’t really feeling it then today I wrote a poem as a fish, it seemed to come from nowhere so maybe something went in 🙂 We’re about 4 miles west of Launceston just near Pipers Pool. The house was definitely a labour of love, Thanks seeing that.

      • I am never any good at workshops but sometimes I notice a change a bit later and realise something must’ve gone in. Sorry I must have been a bit dappy on that day and forgot who was where! yes, I can see your house must’ve been lots of work and you have somehow kept its beautiful innocence

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