Someone said last night, outside the ‘poets’ village’ where the food, bar & chillout zone were: ‘It’s like, “I dreamed that everyone I know was hula hooping outside the Southbank!”‘ The hula hoops started on Tuesday night after the Rain of Poems, when the ethereal Estonian poet Kristiina Ehin and her friends were hula hooping and then dancing in a long line. They were there against the wall all week, near the registration desk, under the roof that is in reality the bottom of the ground outside the Queen Elizabeth Hall, and beside the pillars covered with bright green plastic colanders, and there was usually someone out there hula hooping in the evening.
Last night, last thing, at the very end of the whole festival, after spending about an hour keeping the hoop up while seemingly standing still – she has really perfected her technique this week – the wonderful Anna Selby cajoled and persuaded Simon Armitage (whose brainchild the whole festival was) to have a go. And he kept it up for a good 30 seconds! (As the actress said to the bishop)
Someone filmed it on their phone but by then I was too tired to go speak to them; maybe at some point they’ll put it on YouTube…
But even if it doesn’t, we who were there know: we lived the dream, the beautiful surreal moment.
The hula hoops aren’t even really incidental to it: the agora, the forum, the café, the village, was integral to the experience. And everyone loved watching the hula hoops, even those (like me) who were thinking oh my back and I know I couldn’t do it – which, to be honest, is also what Simon Armitage started out by saying. I stood there with Yuyu Sharma from Nepal, & with Agnes Lehoszky (the Hungarian poet, who now lives in Sheffield), & with Akis from Cyprus, as well as with friends and colleagues who live in London but with whom there’s never so much time to just be together, watching them happily.
The other night, eating dinner at a long table surrounded by other poets eating dinner and having conversations, and right after an impromptu conversation with Ilya Kaminsky where Michael told him about the glory days of the sixties with Voznesensky and Yevtushenko, Michael Horovitz turned to me and said: ‘You know, there are lots of rooms like this – all over the globe, right now, there are rooms full of poets, getting together…’
I’ve come home – feeling as if I’ve been to summer camp – with my bag full of books and copies of my own books nestled in other bags destined for other places, and business cards, and plans to correspond with people, and new Facebook friends, and new Twitter followers, and even ideas for new projects percolating.
Everyone agrees this was a game changer. SO many people from SO many places doing SO many things, in SO many ways. Donatas So many discussions, both as panels and in the bar after, and indeed on Twitter! We’ve all learned a lot, and it will take a while to work out exactly what we’ve learned. It could have gone on for a month. I’ll be processing it for some time, so I’m sure there will be more Parnassus on here.
Modern Poetry in Translation magazine called it ‘a magical poetic utopia’. And it was.
And now, I have to get going and go see the Alzheimer Aunt. It’s all there waiting for me to sort it out.
Then overdue poetry tutorials, and website copywriting.