Over the past few days I've been going out to Dun Laoghaire to the Poetry Now 2008 Festival. It has been very worthwhile. And old and good friend was curator this year so I was going as both a moral supporter but also a bog standard member of the public, interested in the readings. On Thursday, Belinda McKeon gave a wonderful introductory lecture, 'Poem Springing', and discussed the idea of readings, citing Larkin's suspicions of readings. It was about poetry and diversity, the work of the ear and the work of the eye. [On the Poetry Ireland website, on the calendar of events, they've listed Belinda as reading her poem 'Springing', which I thought was a rather poetic misreading for her introduction 'Poem Springing'].
I got to several readings. Bernard O'Donoghue, Antonella Anedda, and Jamie McKendrick. It was such a pleasure. O'Donoghue is one of my favourite poets writing at the moment. He writes so beautifully about leaving home, about Ireland, about an Ireland of the 1950s that I recognize in veins of my own childhood, and in my own returns home. He helps me make sense of that and teaches me so much about the things I know so well they are a mystery. Anedda's work I did not know but found myself delighted to know it, and she was well served in the beautiful translations of the wonderful Jamie McKendrick. McKendrick occupies a space of happy Italian memories for me and to hear him read again made me think a lot about that time.
Later that evening, CD Wright and Seamus Heaney read. Wright's work, again (I say red-faced), I did not know and found it difficult and interesting and I enjoyed the hard work of it. Heaney was what he always is in readings: memorable, beautiful, modest, extraordinary. He read some new stuff, which was marvellous to hear.
On Saturday, I got to the final reading of the evening, Henri Cole, Mimi Khalvati, and George Szirtes. Again, this was an introduction to the work of Cole and Khalvati, but I shall certainly be reading more. And Szirtes read with that Central European urbanity that his poetry so beautifully expresses, the sadness of an exile.
Undoubtedly one of the highlights for me was meeting Alice Lyons, the poet and visual artist who was responsible for the fantastic Staircase Project in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim. We'd been introduced as neighbours, and a moment's puzzlement led to a spark of mutual recognition where I was identified as "Miglior Acque"! That's a first. It was a beautiful evening and I am glad of it.
Thank you Belinda for putting together a fantastic festival, and thanks to the poetry, for being so good.