The Train to Aldeburgh

Well, Baroque in Hackney must being the running for Least Active Poetry Blog of the Year. But that is about to change, at least for a few days, because I am on the train to Saxmundham, for the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. I’m in the way of a no-strings junket; the idea is that the people at Penned in the Margins wanted to see what I’d have to say about Hannah Silva’s show, Schlock!, which has been commissioned by the festival.

From the leaflet I glean that it is something about ripping up her copy of Fifty Shades of Grey (which presumably she had to make a special trip to the MIND shop to get), and reassembling womanhood via it and Kathy Acker? The publicity material is styled like one of those 50s Vogue shoots and features Hannah in full maquillage; I’ll know more after tomorrow. I do know that whatever it’s like it will be very interesting.

Other highlights of the festival for me include Julian Stannard, Jen Hadfield, and the US poet Thomas Lux talking about onomatopoiea. Paula Bohince, whom I interviewed in the current Poetry News, is over here to read in the festival, and I went in to the Poetry Society the other day to record a podcast with her. We had a really interesting conversation – well, I hope it was interesting – which included some good talk about sound in poetry. I mentioned something Paula said in our original interview, about ‘little hooks and nets of sound’, which I was really struck by. Then she did it again, and said she likes the way the hard edges of consonants hit against the curves of the vowels, or something.So the best bit of the conversation, for me, was after the recorder was turned off unfortunately, when I said I thought that sounded like a synaesthesiac thing to say, and so many poets do seem to have a degree of synaesthesia. Paula said no at first, but as we got talking it really seemed as if her ‘ear’ includes other textures and dimensions, if not actual colours.  I’ll be going to her reading too, naturally.

As an event, though, this festival is significant because it’s Naomi Jaffa’s last as director. She has spent a couple of decades growing it into this amazing thing, and now she’s going to do something else. (I’m not sure if even she knows exactly what.) It’s hard to imagine aldeburgh Poetry Festival without her energy, her expansive sense of possibility, her collaborative creativity, and her eagle-like focus. Of course, Dean Parkin is staying – PHEW! – and whoever they her to replace Naomi will have their own huge personality to stamp upon the festival, otherwise they wouldn’t get the job. But for now, this is her weekend and I am incredibly glad to be able to be there.

In other news, as it’s been so long, there were builders for a week who dismantled Baroque Mansions and repaired the damage form the Rains of august – leaving me to reassemble the halls of Baroque, which for a couple of reasons involved a lot of hemming of curtains. The minute they were gone I got flu. I am only just now feeling not like cotton wool, and not clammy, though the first stop in Aldeburgh will be some Lemsip. During all this I’ve written two book reviews, for Poetry London and the Poetry Review, and a few poems, and been thinking about essays for my book thats coming out next year.

And the typewriters. I’ve been practicing my touch typing, and indeed typing on this train is a fortuitous opportunity to type without moving my hand position – as there is simply no room – as advised by the lady in this 1944 US Navy typing video. (Yes, I love her.)

I have fixed a couple of typewriters now and am in love with them (and have been writing on them, as well as attempting to improve my typing) and you’ll be hearing more about that. Oh yes.

But before that, you’ll be hearing more about Aldeburgh.


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