Thursday, 13 December 2007

Assynt, Oct/Nov 2007

Glencanisp Lodge, near Lochinver, Assynt. (Assynt Foundation
A week long Writing Retreat for some and a poetry course taught by Mandy Haggith and myself.
Mandy's open-air tutorial on observation of detail, and conveying emotion (without stating the emotion) was useful for me as well as the students. We had a well-earned drink (the hot chocolate was fantastic) afterwards at the Achill Cafe which opened up specially for us (part of the Achill Bookshop at Inverkirkaig. I think this tin hut on top of a slight hill surrounded by trees above the valley is one of the most magical bookshops I have ever visited. Do go. Not only the books, but the hats are great.

My own in class tutorials used the work of Alice Oswald, Jen Hadfield and Robin Robertson as springboards for different approaches to writing about nature and place.

It was a very wet week, and we only caught a glimpse of Suilven on the first day, which(who?mountains do seem like people) hid behind mist for the rest. However, the colours of the trees and bracken were brilliant - autumn is definitely a good time to visit and NO MIDGES.

I had hoped to write my own poems too or at least write notes. One poem finished - Hey, Hey, Suilven Blues,heysuilvenblues
and notes taken on terrific waterfall in spate and a gralloching ( so learnt where the word comes from!) - it means disembowelling of a stag - in our case, a hind (the stag season being over). What with an unexpected landfall (tho washed up is more precise) of a fin whale on the coast a bit further north which we hurried to see before the stench got too awful, it has resulted in some gruesome experiences which will certainly make for a different type of poem than my usual nature poems.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

18th March, 2007 StAnza Poetry Festival

Highlights from StAnza 2007
Sunday, 18th March

John Hegley I have to confess I ate his breakfast. Sorry about that, John.

Gwyneth Lewis Masterclass Arrived late due to breakfast mishap above - luckily she had not started. Mine, 'The Burning Glass' was one of the poems chosen to discuss. Again it was 'an interrogation' of what the poems were doing. Emphasis on who one was addressing again (Had GS and GL consulted?!), especially who is 'you' ?- the problems when the 'you' is a different one from other 'you's' in the poem. Interesting discussions on structural unity.

The 100 Poets Gathering. Phew. Never thought I'd survive this but did sit it out for most of the whole event 11am -4.30 (though missed first session due to workshop). What an honour to read (albeit for 3 mins only) alongside some of poetry world's most established names. Interesting to put a face to a name of all the Scottish poets one knows from literary mags etc. A great mixture of personal, love poems, quirky, gsh, serious political poems (eg anti Iraq war, )ending on a selection of nationalistic, celebratory ones, culminating in Alistair Reid's Scotland - text of which has been flickering on stone buldings throughout StA all week.. Jim Carruth was a wonderful MC, kept us to the schedule but charming, warm as ever. He read a cow poem, of course.

Highlights for me were Mike Stock's 'Two Boys' where the ending hits you in the solar plexus. (From 'Folly' Herla Press). Something only Sharon Olds does for me usually. I know Mike from ceildhe dancing - it is a small world, Edinburgh - but neither of us knew we were both writers. Patricia Ace read 'First Blood' about her 12 year old daughter - who was sitting there and apparently did not mind. A strong, dramatic reading but also controlled and subtle - her Glasgow MLitt is showing. Alistair Reid rewriting the last line of 'Scotland' was an iconic moment from 'We'll pay for it' x 3 to 'We're free' x 3 - though most dramatic was his setting fire to the paper it was written on (not a book which would have had too many negative connotations), Jim holding a plate underneath so it didn't fall on the stage !

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