Maria Isakova-Bennett and family on their experience of Poetry in Aldeburgh
Many thanks again for a wonderful weekend of poetry. I loved each day and evening but especially the close readings and the workshops. I was at Patricia Debney's workshop, Patricia had a large group but included everyone, was so knowledgeable and interactive and I came away full of thoughts and ideas; also Anne Marie Fyfe's workshop which inspired much drafting for me after a dry spell recently; one of my daughters was at the reading workshop with Cahal Dallat and she loved the session and came back full of all she had experienced.
The excellent discussion and close reading at the Helen Dunmore event will stay with me [I loved having copies of poems to focus thought]; the amazing Garage events which pack so much into a short space of time and provoke lots of thoughts. Robert Seater’s discussion of Charles Boyle’s, The Disguise; Niall Campbell’s words about, Jamie McKendrick’s, The Hunters; and John McCullough’s expansive exploration of Frank O’ Hara’s, Having a Coke with You, stand out [again, the handouts are so helpful and add to the pleasure of the events I think].
It's good to feel the enthusiasm of each poet for the poem they selected and discussed; Martin Shaw's Story Telling event (a highlight for my husband especially who then booked another event with Martin); the opportunity to have my own workshop in The Lookout of course- thank you again, the wonderful art work in Peter Pears, and the talks by the artists. You all created something amazing over this memorable weekend.
A degree in English Literature recedes into what is rapidly becoming a distant past, and time spent living abroad means I feel a sense of disorientation when considering what to read, what is ‘good’, what is ‘new’ and what is ‘important’ in poetry. Of course, we shouldn’t orient our tastes around what we’re being told we’re meant to be reading, but the need for a broad sweep overview and context has always been my way of choosing what to pick up and what to avoid.
Without the map, my reading of poetry has dwindled. So I attended Poetry in Aldeburgh as a 'layperson' without much direction or idea of where to join in. A pleasure then, to re-encounter and re-remember poetry's particularly easy and accessible joy in a weekend that provided myriad ways in – approaching language, currents past and present, and poetic possibilities. Teasing individual pieces apart slowly in close readings, situating it within cultural, social and editorial contexts, revelling in performative readings, and encountering many new poets and new works in the quick shuffle of papers for bursts of listening, thematic group readings, or in the light, personal, idiosyncratic and infectiously enthusiastic ten-minute discussions.
Particularly enjoyable were the unexpected and unplanned resonances that occurred between sessions – when thoughts or readings rub up against others, to produce new ideas – all of which felt rooted and highly personal, dependent on what you’d chosen to attend, and the set of references you’d brought along yourself. This was particularly striking between two sessions, one of collective close reading, led by Cahal Dallat, gathered around a table, scribbling notes in margins and teasing out the language and ideas of US Migrant Poets – such joy to be guided and directed in what to read, but free to encounter it and express our own thoughts.
The next day, a lunchtime talk by Gregory Pardlo granting broader context on the same theme, a dialogue between the two sessions that sparked more thinking and will, no doubt, inspire more reading. The weekend was approachable and inclusive, but pleasingly demanding, too – demanding of more reading, more listening, and, for this attendee, demanding I accept the pleasure of poetry without getting waylaid in panic about missing frames of reference – everything is a touchpoint, everything is a way in!
I found attending Poetry in Aldeburgh very uplifting, and I speak as a non-poet. The packed and varied programme meant there was plenty to pick and choose from. Meeting people going from one to another with only time to say a quick 'Hi!' and exchange notes added to the sense of being in the middle of something good, a mix between a whirlpool and surfing a wave. I particularly enjoyed Martin Shaw's story telling talk on the Saturday. It was an area I have some interest in and came away with ideas and energy, as well as having really enjoyed the hour.
I was disappointed not to be able to attend his workshop, but did go to the changed talk with Maggie Hambling, which, understandably take a while to warm up, given the last minute change, but when they got into their stride, it was great. I remember feeling how good it was, in the age of clipped and instant communication, to be in a conversation that had time to evolve, and to include pauses.
Coast to Coast to Coast’s reading from the poets around the UK and Ireland was absorbing, partly because of the strength of the poems but also because of the organisation which allowed for a smooth flow without any monotony or sense of poets rushing by; the groupings of six allowed pause for breath and applause, helping to keep it fresh. Another big plus for the weekend were the 10-minute 'pop ups' in the Garage. I went to a few and found them to be real gems - great idea and the perfect way to be introduced to poets and poems I might not have gone to if it had been a full hour.
Olivia Dawson (from Portugal, and one of the poets reading as part of the Coast to Coast to Coast event)
My thoughts on Aldeburgh? Apart from loving the whole thing… I thought the Coast to Coast to Coast format worked really well. It gave a lot of poets the chance to read and the audience the chance to listen to a wide variety of poems and voices. I would love more of that. Sometimes I feel the 15 minutes slot per poet can be a bit long. It might be interesting to try 7 minutes per poet and include more voices.
I loved the Stitch and Poetry workshop but it felt too short. Maybe another half hour would have been good. I felt we were just warming up. I would love more talks like the Breakfast Talks. Christine Webb was a highlight for me as was the reading of The Wasteland by Matthew Hollis and Richard Scott. The free events on the Friday were a very positive move. The festival was beautifully organised and must have taken a huge amount of work.