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Archive for May, 2018

I had a wonderful time in Bucharest last week, discussing MPT and editing as part of a panel chaired by the wonderful poet Magda Cârneci. It was great to catch up with fellow editors James Byrne and Tony Frazer, as well as Neil Astley and Pamela Robertson Pearce from Bloodaxe, and to meet Claudiu Komartin who edits Poesis International, and Lilana Ursu (whose exquisite volume A Path to the Sea was in my handbag for most of the trip, conjuring a Romania of green darkness and ‘the shy red of wild strawberries’.)

The City was enjoyable and fascinating too – lovely beer-halls, frescoed churches, graffiti, Brâncuși. We visited Ceaușescu’s Palace of Parliament, the ‘heaviest building in the world’ according to Wikipedia, absurd in its enormity and banality, 70% empty with gilded, silk-draped conference room after gilded, silk-draped conference room.  I read about how Ceausescu’s government in Romania monitored women monthly for pregnancy, and made contraception illegal for anyone under 45 who had not borne four children (an inspiration for Gilead). We visited the village Museum, with its beautiful, various homes; its celebration of the rural life the Communist Regime tried to eradicate – wooden, tiled, painted, carved, half-buried, thatched; windmills and wells topped by witches’ hats of tiles. We drank good wine and ate stuffed vine-leaves, carp, polenta and smoked sausages.

I flew back and was straight on the train to Huddersfield to participate in The Motley Muse, where it was great to hear Vahni Capildeo, Chris McCabe and Zaffar Kunial read amongst others – and Jay Bernard’s performance of their sequence about the New Cross Fire and Grenfell was one of the most powerful things I’ve seen all year. I also really enjoyed the display of Hughes archive material – this hand-drawn map showing the precise location where Hughes became a poet caught my interest:

ted

Many thanks to Steve Ely and the Ted Hughes Network for organising such a great day. Sandeep Parmar sadly had to cancel, but in her absence I bought Threads, by Sandeep, Nisha Ramayya and Bhanu Kapil – an lyric essay/collaboration published by Clinic. Beautiful and essential.

It was a relief in a way to get home on Sunday and mess around outside with the children (splashing in the paddling pool; making a fairy garden; constructing a ‘den’ out of a sheet and sunloungers). Our peonies are on their last, bright, overblown days; yellow roses have made an appearance. I planted rainbow chard seeds and chucked a few snails over the garden wall.

A busy few weeks now – this Thursday I’m going to be in Oxford, going through the MPT archive at Queens and then onto perform for the Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre ‘Think Human Festival’, at the Crisis Skylight Cafe, Old Fire Station at 7.30pm.  Then Gruff’s half term is upon me. I’m also about to send my second issue as editor, The House of Thirst, with a focus on LGBTQ+ poetry, off to the typesetters. We’ll be launching at Ledbury on July 7th with Richard Scott, Mary Jean Chan and Jennifer Lee Tsai (and we’ll also be partnering on a Ukrainian translation duel organised by Sasha Dugdale that weekend, so it should be a wonderful weekend).

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