Back from StAnza and brimming with new voices and poems. Once of the most fascinating elemnts of a festival is bearing witness to all the different styles of reading and performance.
We were up there to support Arc poets, Ludwig Steinherr (reading as part of an European Literature Night with Robert Şerban from Romania), Alvin Pang and Anna Crowe, the translator of our latest new Voices from Europe anthology: Six Catalan Poets. Other highlights were Deryn Rees-Jones, Charlotte Runcie and Matilda Södergran (one of the poets in our forthcoming Six Finnish Poets).
Reading work is, as we know, not as simple as following the lines on a page, nor is it as complicated as articulating every syllable with choreography. It's the opportunity to bring out the full intimacy of the words, their sense and sound, to the readers'/audience's deep consciousness. To play a bit. To hear familiar poems through a new filter of new listeners. To air new ones.
All these reasons and excuses (and more) were put into action by Astrid Alben and Sophie Mayer recently at an Enemies reading in London. And I love it. I love the energy of the collaboration - made all the more evident by having two on the stage - but the collaboration is there between reader and listener. I love the screen of text turned three-dimensional by voice.
We're just beginning to put together poets for another autumn tour this year and I hope the combination of poets we'll be touring will generate more reasons for reading and listening to poetry live. Armenia can drum up audiences of 2000 without batting an eyelid. Punjabis will roar at the end of lines they love and demand an encore, and another if they can't get enough. Surely there is enough of us in this country to generate more than the odd knowing 'hmm', an appreciative silence or applause? It's a rare and appreciative act when people go up to the poets to talk to them after a reading - although less so at festivals. It's not asking so much, is it?