In Praise of Poetry Weekends

I’m home again but off to Octavia’s shortly for supper and to celebrate her mum’s 94th birthday, so this will of necessity be a quick, photoless post. Just to be clear, her mum is there, so we shan’t be toastimg the start of her 95th year in her absence.

I had a fabulous time in Northern Ireland; three poetry events in three days at the Heaney Homeplace. The highpoint for me was undoubtedly Simon Armitage on Saturday afternoon, but I enjoyed the rest and have a book of Nick Laird’s poetry to add to my shelves.

Simon Armitage is the real deal; funny, profound, poignant, his poems provide a commentary on the world about him. He opened with Thank-you for Waiting, which for an audience no doubt familiar with both Easyjet and, in particular, Ryanair, sent ripples of knowing laughter round the Helicon, as the auditorium is called.

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When I went into my local Poundland today in search of boxes of paper hankies, I picked up my wire basket and prepared to voyage. Armitage checked that his audience knew what Poundland is, and commented that when he read the eponymously titled poem in Oxford he wasn’t sure people knew what he was talking about. The poem came about when one of his students told him he had seen a copy of Ezra Pound’s poems for sale in Sheffield’s Poundland for a pound. Armitage having, as he put it, a bit of an obsession about Book XI of Homer’s Odyssey, the two ideas collided to create something very wonderful. Read it here.

Nick Laird on Sunday was a new name to me. As a local lad, he attracted quite a crowd. He’s from Cookstown where I spent some of the summers of my youth. Or rather I spent those weeks in the country not far from Cookstown. Cousin’s son-in-law went to the same school, as indeed did some of our family who belong to my generation. He’s currently based in New York, but if he’s doing readings anywhere near me on this side of the pond, I shall certainly try to get there. He has also written novels and there’s a television series he’s authored coming this year on, I believe, the BBC. I really liked the look of the anthology he has edited, but I only had a small in flight bag, and so I chose a slimmer volume. Continue reading

Mainly About Reading, and Some Work

A quick post tonight to keep up with the challenge. I still have some work to finish, and the washing up will not take care of itself.

We had our poetry group meeting in the library. It could be a play. One of the members is very definitely on the autistic spectrum, and tonight he was on speed dial. Celia was placating and calming with regular interjections of “Right, right” delivered in a firm but calming tone. I think he might have had a caffeine boost or similar this afternoon, but last month he was much more connected.

Viv was mildly subversive, and made me think she was probably quite naughty at school in ways she could get away with.

It was fun. I picked a few Simon Armitage volumes at random from the library shelves. One, Seeing Stars, turned out not to be poetry, but short stories and monologues. The first I looked at began:

During the summer of 1996 I was working as a Tattooist-in-Residence on a reclaimed slagheap in the South Pennines.

Continue reading