Sunday, 17 May 2015

The Place for Poetry

Last week I was lucky enough to attend a fantastic poetry conference at Goldsmiths, University of London. All ready to present a paper on the first day of the schedule, I turned up with an open mind, very excited to be part of the variety of seminars, workshops, readings and presentations at the conference.  The festival programme was absolutely jammed with interesting topics and speakers and it was really difficult to narrow down what I wanted to see and hear without overloading myself.  In the end, there were many highlights and my presentation was followed up with a discussion which has now fed back into the creative process for my writing on the polyphonic poetry sequence for my PhD.

Among the highlights were Niall Munro (Oxford Brookes University), who gave a talk on Claudia Rankine's Citizen: An American Lyric, a book of which I was previously unaware before attending the session. To say that Rankine's work is arresting falls far short of the praise she deserves in the unsettling of the public with Citizen's comment on and engagement with racism in the US. 

Patience Agbabi gave the keynote talk, capturing everyone in the room with a few excerpts from her new book, Telling Tales, a remix of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Although not the same performance, here's a little taster: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-U-ozgjZfjQ   I hadn't heard Patience read / speak her poetry since before she started working on this new book and she's fired me up to go hear her again as soon as I can, to listen to more of her tales.

But it is the final event that I went to on the second day of the conference that sticks most in my mind. A reading from The Complete Works crew--some poets from the first wave and some from the new wave--which also included a discussion with us, the audience, on the crafting of the poems and the whole process of the mentoring that has gone into the program.  I was totally blown away by all of the poets but especially Karen McCarthy Woolf's tender poem about her mother in law, Malika Booker's amazing chanting haunting poems and Kayo Chingonyi's quiet reflections.  And to top the day off, at the start of my very long train journey home, I bumped into Kayo and he gave me a copy of Ten: The New Wave. Talk about icing on the cake of the already sumptuous two days.  I read it the whole way home and it's now happily residing among the other beautiful slim volumes on my poetry shelves.




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