My first experience of the Ventures Tour in reality, rather than on spreadsheets and train tickets, was at the Sun 21 Oct reading at The Hole in the Wall in Hebden Bridge, with Gerður Kristný, Bejan Matur, and local poets Amanda Dalton and Anne Caldwell. Although the crowd wasn't as large as we might have hoped, it was a really engaged audience and the atmosphere was closer to that of a parlour reading or a salon. A fascinating discussion and good book sales followed.
While the audience sizes were often much larger, engaged audiences and an atmosphere of intimacy and exchange was the story of the tour as a whole. I lost count of the number of strangers that approached me after events to tell me how much they enjoyed hearing our poets read and speak about their own history and culture, how 'magical' the atmosphere had been, or how glad they were that they hadn't just stayed at home and had ventured forth into what was often, to them, the unknown world of live contemporary poetry. It has been a great privilege for me to bear witness to the different ways poets can captivate an audience, and to the moving effect poetry can have on people when read with heart and energy by its author.
The workshops and seminars have been a fantastic addition to the readings during the tour. The best out of those at which I was present was the translation seminar at Leeds University, the day after the reading. We had organised it with the Centre for Translation Studies' MA in Audiovisual Translation Studies, as one of a series of extra-curricular seminars for which students could earn supernumerary credits for attending. The turnout was excellent and the students were very attentive - for many of them, it seemed like this was the first time they had ever engaged with the concept of poetry translation, and I wouldn't be surprised if one or two future poetry translators were inspired into being that morning. Thrown into the deep end, I was asked to talk about poetry translation from the publishing intern's point of view, but in fact I really enjoyed the opportunity to share my experience of what had been for me a brand new environment, and a new way of thinking about poetry and language. Of particular interest to the students was the possibility of collaboration when translating a living poet. There also seemed to be a certain amount of surprise that many poetry translations are not commissioned - that often someone will translate a poet's work for the joy of it, and only later contemplate publication.
Meeting poets from eight different countries has been fascinating and an unrivalled insight into the variety of poetic styles and attitudes to creativity that exist around the world. It has also been a humbling reminder of the difficulties artists face - difficulties that are alien to me and my British upbringing. Being able to help in the process of promoting and encouraging these poets in the UK has been extremely rewarding.