It’s day 3 and I’m settling into my Cork Poetry Festival experience. Yesterday and today I’ve spent the morning writing and reading. Afternoons I go to hear readings at the library, evenings are in the fine Cork Arts Theatre – a lovely intimate size perfect for poetry.
Highlights for me so far:
Launch event for The Well Review issue 3 on Tuesday at the Music School: a wonderfully thought-out programme that followed the ‘music’ theme of the issue. In between readings by contributors (Sasha Dugdale read Anna Akhmatova both in English and in Russian – I marvelled at the way her voice changes in accommodation) we heard music for cello and piano, by Shostakovich, Britten and Mahler. Editor Sarah Byrne made the introductions and has a manner I want to describe as ‘sweet’ but I don’t mean that in a patronising or sugary way at all. Gentle, thoughtful, informed.
US/Irish poet Thomas Dillon Redshaw reading yesterday at the library, from his collection Mortal (Brighthorse Books) and some new material too – goodness, what moving poems from the experience of losing his mother ‘in her hundredth year’. One of them, ‘Theft’, was published by the Irish Times last Saturday.
Yesterday evening I loved hearing Pat Boran, another name I hadn’t heard of but I bought a copy of his ‘pocket selected’ A Man is Only as Good…(Orange Crate Books) and have already started reading & enjoying it. We also had Jessica Traynor reading from The Quick (Dedalus Press 2018). Great presentation and some wonderful poems. A poet I have heard read before of course is Kim Moore. I’d heard most of her set before and that was a big part of my enjoyment of it. She manages to make each reading (and the links) sound fresh, making me laugh at the funny bits as if hearing them for the first time.
Meanwhile I’ve actually already worked on four ‘archive’ poems (ie one of about 200 I’ve ‘put in the drawer’ over the years) and started a new one. The new one is partly a response to Thomas Dillon Redshaw’s poems about his mother. It’s been six years since my mother died, but just ten lines written this morning and I was crying my eyes out. I would blame it on hormones but I think that’s all done with now.
I won’t deny I’ve struggled a bit since arriving in Cork – people have been so kind on Twitter but by last night I was seriously wondering what sort of dreadful negativity I was giving off in real life! I’m so grateful to Sasha Dugdale for joining me at breakfast yesterday, but then later in the day she endured my moaning on about being a Jonny-no-mates – ugh! How embarrassing – I owe her a bunch of flowers at least.
I’ve reminded myself of a few truths: that I can’t have it both ways – I like my solitary time, I knew it would be challenge to come here not knowing anyone, I came to hear the work of poets new to me, and to be inspired. I didn’t come here to socialise, or to feel obliged to fit in with others – I am an outsider here so wishing that wasn’t the case is really a bit silly. So I’m over myself. I’m in Ireland for $£@*’s sake! I’m hearing some fantastic poetry! I’m extremely lucky!
Anyway, today’s another day entirely and from my first encounter with the famous Cork friendliness at the health club reception desk this morning (Shane! Thank you! I realise that you probably spell your name Siaorghne or something so please forgive my ignorance) to the brilliantly empty swimming pool, to the wonderful person on reception who offered me a different room, (in which hopefully I won’t be woken three times a night by the bins lorry) I feel encased in a glow of positivity and ready to turn a corner. Off to the library.