I’ve had a manic couple of weeks, and this afternoon I’m off to teach an Arvon course in Devon, so won’t be online for a bit. Just thought I’d bring the site up-to-date first with a few links.
I spent most of last week writing a play for Radio 4’s ‘From Fact to Fiction’ strand with W.N. Herbert. We had a meeting at BBC Broadcasting House on the Monday afternoon, and only three days to write it. We ran with the news about missiles being stationed on the roofs of tower-blocks around the Olympic site without the residents’ permission – it’s just such a dark, absurd story. As one solicitor commented in The Guardian, defending the residents of the Fred Wigg Tower (who lost their right to challenge the MOD on Tuesday): “We have always believed an Englishman’s home is his castle – not a forward operating base.”
As Shakespeare is in the air too, with ‘The Hollow Crown’ series of his history plays, we’ve done it in blank verse, with nods to Henry V and the John of Gaunt speech (‘This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land, / Dear for her reputation through the world / is now leased out.’) It’s called ‘Surface to Air’, went out this Saturday and will available to listen to until July 22nd.
I guess it’s a political piece, which seems to be becoming a theme – in the last couple of weeks my poem about youth unemployment in Europe, ‘Los Indignados’, has been published along with an interview in the ‘Well Versed’ poetry column run by Jody Porter for The Morning Star. And I’m just back from Latitude where two of my highlights involved political poetry – Tony Harrison reading his poems of class and war, and Rufus Wainwright singing one of the great modern protest songs, ‘America’.
I also enjoyed The Horrors, the poetry tent’s rap-battle and dancing with Luke Wright, Martin Figura and Helen Ivory. And I performed some of my translation of Ovid’s Heroines for the first time – the monologues by Ariadne and Phaedra – and tried to do them by heart which was pretty nerve-wracking (I got what the poet Helen Mort called ‘sewing-machine legs’).
One of the nice things about festivals is the random encounters with old friends. It was a pleasure to bump into Polly Wright of the musical project Tiger’s Bride there (named after an Angela Carter short story) who told me that her song ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ was inspired by my post on this blog in December – a very pleasing thought. It’s a gorgeously eerie track with some with some heart-thuddingly sad piano – after watching this I’m hoping to see her perform it live soon: