Kathy Pimlott for Poetry in Aldeburgh 2022

Friday and the sun was out and, slowly, familiar faces began to arrive among the dog walkers and
amblers taking a break and a coffee on the sea wall. My first task of the day was to go in search of a
notebook, having forgotten to pack one – what kind of poet am I? My first session was a workshop:

THAT SPECIAL PLACE - FRIDAY 4TH NOVEMBER


run by Fokkina McDonnell, thinking about some of the techniques she learnt and used in her career
as a psychotherapist and applying them to the creative process and to performance. There were
eight of us in the beautifully refurbished Gallery space. Fokkina asked us to think about our creative
processes, the different phases of gathering material – maybe in free writing – how we order that
into early drafts – where, with what – and the later assessment and editing process. She introduced
us to clustering as a way into working, to banking resources as a defence against the eternal inner
critic and to very simple, astonishingly effective ways of maintaining confidence in the face of nerves
or self-doubt.

AFTER DINNER SOCIAL - FRIDAY 4TH NOVEMBER


Thirty odd poets resisted the lure of their beds or the crystal clear moonlight and convened in the
Ballroom for the After Dinner Social, hosted with great warmth and charm by Kate Noakes and
lubricated by a generous flow of wine. Kate kicked of proceedings with some new poems from her
PHD focused on breath in poetry, touching on her experience of chronic asthma – surprisingly lyrical
and with an astonishing range of imagery. And then the first tranche of open micers. We all know
how touch and go this can be but here in Aldeburgh there were no awkward moments. We had
poems on dementia (including some tip top singing), edamame beans, floating islands, elegies, even
a ghazal.

OUR WHOLE SELVES - FRIDAY 4TH NOVEMBER


Almost every Saturday morning since March 2020, zooming in from Brussels, The Netherlands,
Norwich, Leicestershire and London, we’ve been meeting to workshop poems, indulge in poetry
gossip and, as the months went on, to celebrate publications and to support each other through
some hard times. Some of us had managed to meet up here and there but now we were all together
for the first time – bringing our whole selves, giddy with the excitement of being together and
reading in the lovely setting of the transformed Ballroom space. A full house of festival early-comers
gave us the warmest of welcomes.
 


MICHAEL LASKEY AND FOUR POETS FROM VITAL INDEPENDENT PRESSES - SATURDAY 5TH NOVEMBER


Despite the turn from sunshine to mizzly rain, a full house convened on Saturday morning, drawn in
no small part by the esteem and affection in which host Michael Laskey is held. Michael introduced
four fine poets from independent presses, including his own Garlic Press, and read himself from his
new collection, Between Ourselves (Smith Doorstop), accurately described as ‘love letter to the
future and a contemplation of the past’. The four poets, Elizabeth Cook, Davina Prince, Martin
Hayden and John Lynch, read from their recent or new collections. These mature poets, though
varied in style and subjects, shared a unifying quality of confident, unshowy insight, craft and clear-
eyed attention to the world, laced with wit. Michael’s own reading exemplified this – emotionally
authentic, experimental and life-affirming. The sense of love and respect in the room was palpable.
The four vital independent presses- Worple Press, Garlic Press, Happenstance and Smith Doorstop –
certainly know what they’re doing.


THE MISERICORD AND THE TENNIS NET: A MATTER OF FORM - SATURDAY 5TH NOVEMBER


Christie Webb described herself as ‘a listener hungry for sound, words heard and remembered’.
In her virtuoso one-hour talk she ranged over twelve centuries of verse, from Beowulf to Caleb
Femi, to explore poetry as ‘an art of the ear’ and how that aural art works through sound
patterning – repetition, alliteration, metrical form, rhyme and fixed forms. She questioned if and
how that has changed through the development of literacy so that we now more often read
poetry ourselves than hear it spoken. A handout of poems allowed us to explore with her in detail
– swift but incisive doses of my favourite thing – close reading. Chrisitne’s immense but easily-
worn erudition, her pacey peer-to-peer delivery and open-ended questioning made this an utterly
absorbing, instructive and thought-provoking hour. 


KINARA COLLECTIVE - SATURDAY 5TH NOVEMBER


Kinara means border, shoreline or edge in Hindi/Urdu. It is the name chosen by this
collective of women poets with inherited histories of migration and South Asian identities
who have been meeting on-line for mutual support over the last couple of trying years. While
they share many themes, including racism, post-colonialism and the legacy of Empire,
inherited displacement, and a certain fierce, combative strength, they are, of course, each
highly individual voices with their own individual stories. Anita Pati’s poems, including her
explorations of motherhood/not motherhood, are full of anger and lament, shot through with
an acerbic wit and delivered in an energetic and innovative use of language, while Sarala
Estruch strikes a more lyrical note. Rushika Wick and Gita Ralleigh share a gift for
astonishing image-making, surprising, sometimes alarming and utterly authentic. Altogether,
the collective presented a formidable powerhouse of invention and expression which
energised the end of day audience.

DEBATING THE CRAFT - THE WHO, HOW AND WHY OF REVIEWING POETRY - SUNDAY 6TH NOVEMBER


More of a conversation than a debate, this consideration of aspects of the art, purpose and
pitfalls of reviewing was illuminating and raised many questions. The panel comprised some
seasoned practitioners – Pam Thompson, D.A. Prince, Lisa Kelly and Sarala Estruch (a
Ledbury Emerging Critics alumna). Perhaps the main point of agreement was that critics
have the power to change the prevailing poetry landscape. This is certainly the aim of the
Ledbury programme, which has supported a new cohort of diverse critics who themselves,
as Sarala said, could foreground a more culturally diverse range of poets. The constraints of
word count and deadlines were touched upon and the large amount of background research
all the panellists stressed was necessary to do the job well – paid, if at all, well below
minimum wage. The potential minefield of reviewing friends – almost impossible to avoid in
the tiny poetry world – the importance of focussing on craft as well as content and the role of
the editor in determining who gets reviewed were all covered. Altogether a brisk and
provocative hour.

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Kathy Pimlott’s collection, the small manoeuvres, was published by Verve Poetry Press in 2022. She has two pamphlets with the Emma Press, Elastic Glue​, (2019) and Goose Fair Night (2016). Her poems have been published widely in magazines and anthologies, most recently, in the Poetry Archive’s Wordview 2020 Winners Collection and in the Live Canon Poetry Competition anthology 2021 and forthcoming in 2022.  Born and raised in Nottingham, Kathy has lived in Seven Dials, Covent Garden, home of the broadsheet and the ballad, for 40+ years. Follow Kathy's work here