Cork Spring Poetry Festival

I’ve been recovering from flu (and reading all the wonderful books I picked up in Cork) so haven’t got round to posting this update until now.

Huge thanks to Patrick Cotter for organising Cork Spring Poetry Festival and to Jennifer Matthews for answering all my questions and ironing out glitches with unfailing kindness.
I’ve been meaning to attend the Cork Spring Poetry Festival for several years but something always got in the way. Luckily I made it this year, as Patrick Cotter has announced that this year was the last Cork Spring Poetry Festival. From 2016, it will bi the bigger and better ( if that’s possible!) ‘Cork International Poetry Festival’. As it should be, because the headliners were truly of international calibre, and from all over – Canada, USA, Britain, Macedonia, Slovakia, and of course all corners of Ireland.
Highlights for me were chatting with Grace Wells, Lidija Dimkovska and Barbara Pogačnik and hearing their poetry. Lidija and Barbara read their poetry in translation. Grace read new work, which will be published in the autumn. I look for ward to her new book. Enda Wyley gave an energetic reading along with the more serious-sounding Peter Sirr, who didn’t bat an eyelid at a disturbance in the auditorium. Afterwards they were asked who gets first dibs on a subject for a poem, if they both share the same experience ( they are husband and wife), their answers got a big laugh from the audience. Michael O’Loughlin discussed translating ‘Mikelis Norgelis’ without giving the game away (Google it!) and read from In This Life.

Perhaps the only flaw in the timetabling was having Michael Schmidt on at 10 p.m. I, for one, didn’t have the necessary concentration and energy to enjoy his reading fully. His poems are quite packed, and need more attention than I could give them so late, after a very full day. However I’ll read them carefully at home. Liz Berry and Don Share were a perfect pairing – Don chose poems that complemented or conversed with Liz’s. Tom French’s and David Wheatley’s sets were very different from each other, an intriguing contrast.Emily Berry’s poetry was surprising, I’m looking forward to reading more. She was paired with Michael Crummey, a Canadian poet of whom I had not heard before the Festival Catalogue came out, and whose work I loved.

Lavinia Greenlaw read from A Double Sorrow, her collection inspired by Chaucer’s and Bocaccio’s ‘Troilus and Criseyde’. She was paired with Jo Shapcott who I’ve heard read from ‘Of Mutability’ three times now – and would gladly listen again. I should admit, that when the book first came out, I couldn’t solve her poem ‘Riddle’ and had to ask her the answer! I seemed obvious once she told me. Felt really silly! (Hair, if you haven’t worked it out!). Douglas Dunn, who I hadn’t hear read before, was witty and enchanting. Peter Fallon, publisher, poet and farmer – after jokingly offering to read us the entire ‘Georgics’ – read from his latest collection, ‘Strong My Love’, and left the audience spellbound.

Pat Cotter’s innovative Showcase events, three of them, showcased three journals, two print – ‘The Penny Dreadful’ and Peadar and Collette O’Donoghue’s ‘Poetry Bus’, and Munster Literature Centre’s online journal, ‘Southword’. The readings from all three were lively and tightly organised, a pleasure to listen to.
As part of my prize for the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Competition, I was given a place on Don Share’s workshop, spread over four mornings during the Festival. It was amazing, challenging, riveting and exhausting. I loved every minute. The Prize for the Greg O’Donoghue Competition has quite a few facets to it: apart from the cash award, there’s a travel stipend, accommodation, meals, an all-events pass and even drinks vouchers for the Festival Club. And almost best of all, a week-long residency at the Tyrone Gutherie Centre in Annaghmakerrig.

I was invited to read my winning poem from the competition, and a selection from my forthcoming collection, ‘In a Hare’s Eye’ alongside five poets selected for the Prebooked Readings. Four of the poets, including Sligo-based Paul McMahon who breathes Yeats Country air every day, had Northern Ireland connections. Their styles were innovative and engaging. I’ll be on the look-out for their names and more of their work in the near future. The other Prebooked reader was Jane Clarke, whose collection of quiet, gentle and skillful poems is forthcoming from Bloodaxe in June.

Doire Press, my publisher, managed to get some advance copies of In a Hare’s Eye from the printer in time for the Festival. Sarah Majury’s hare on the cover got a lot of compliments, and I’ve been getting positive feedback on the set I read, via Facebook PM and email, since I got home. I hadn’t expected to read to a completely dark theatre. Not a single face was visible in the auditorium. Very disconcerting, like reading poems into the void. But writing poetry can feel like writing into a void too, so I suppose the experience had a certain authenticity.

Lunch at the Farm Gate restaurant in the English Market was delicious, as were the conversations with the poets gathered around the table. It was lovely to meet so many poets whose work I admired, and to catch up with lots of poetry friends of long standing. There was no overlapping of events in the timetable, so I was able to go to everything. Was there a downside? Only a dearth of stamina towards the end. I will definitely be back!

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