I've started in earnest the process of assembling a collection, having a bit of mentoring with the divine Mimi, thinking about shape and flow, the practicalities of fitting poems to book-size pages, regretting my recent love affair with very long lines. One of the most difficult things is to come up with a description of what the collection is ‘about’, particularly a first collection which has poems spanning several years, during which preoccupations have inevitably shifted. My view is that all poems are about the poet, about writing poetry and about death, whatever the stated theme, but that’s not a catchy pitch is it? I like those lines from Edna St Vincent Millay, ‘In me no Lenten wicks watch out the night / I am the booth where Folly holds her fair.’ At the moment, I'm toying with the definition 'geri-Gothic'.
This month I'm off to Poetry in Aldeburgh where I’ll be reading along with Oliver Comins, Alexandra Davis and Charlotte Gann and attending as many readings and workshops as I can afford. I don't usually go to festivals because of the cost. The reading I'm taking part in is ticketed but free - as part of the festival's efforts to be accessible. The only way I can justify attending (no fee, no book sales - as I doubt the local bookshop will stock my pamphlets, just a small contribution to accommodation) is by treating it as my holiday. The only other time I've been to Aldeburgh was in the last year that the Poetry Trust ran the festival before it lost its ACE funding. Then I was one of the last Aldeburgh 8 cohort - heavily subsidised to attend the festival, followed by a four-day residential led by Peter Sansom and Jackie Wills - a brilliant opportunity and a sad loss.
A much smaller treat just gone (31st October) was taking part in the annual wreath-laying in Westminster Abbey's Poets' Corner, celebrating the birthday of John Keats. I read an extract from Keats' letter describing the inspiration for 'Ode to Autumn'. The sun shone, I wore my smart coat, we hadn't left Europe, the assembled party all loved Keats - what could be better?
Mimi Khalvati's Afterwardness (Carcanet); Ramona Herdman's A warm and snouting thing (Emma Press); and Structure and Surprise (ed. Michael Theune)