The Kendal Poetry festival has drawn to a close for another year, and what a festival it was. We had poets who are at the top of their game come to Kendal and deliver bold and touching readings to audiences who loved every minute.
On Friday we had the festival launch, opened by Michel McGregor from the Wordsworth Trust. Our Young Poet in Residence Florence Jones (Flo to us at Dove Cottage Young Poets), read some of her work which spanned a wide range of topics – from playing percussion to nudist swimming. She read some of her ‘Flo classics’ (Kim was right in saying she is the only one of us that could ever get away with saying that!), which set the tone for the festival – packed out and relaxed.
After that we all went over to the first main reading – Billy Letford and Hannah Lowe. I enjoyed both readings. Billy had a mixture of bold poetry about everyday life and an accent that helped you be swept up in a tide of poetry. Hannah’s poetry was about her Jamaican Chinese father who was an immigrant, the things he got up to and the period in which she grew up in. Her poetry has stayed with me ever since the festival and I have been re-reading Chick since the event. I really enjoyed the poem about her son and the hens.
That evening I was extremely exhausted. For those of you that don’t know me I have a lot of routine and medical things to do in an evening. By the time mum and I were able to go to bed it was midnight, but I couldn’t sleep because I was so happy about the way the events had gone. I kept on thinking about what a good job Flo did her reading, which is mixed with nostalga for me because I was young poet in residence last year and understand what a pressure it could be if you allowed it to be. She did an incredible job, and if she had any nerves you couldn’t see them at all.
The next morning we had readings from Chrissy Williams and Inua Ellams. I had read Bear by Chrissy and had reviewed it on my personal YouTube channel, so was very excited to hear Chrissy read. Chrissy read in a very gentle way, which I would have never associated with her poems until she did it. She had such a gentle voice next to such dangerous and shadowy bears! Inua read from his new collection, which has poems by prolific poets alongside his own. This gave his work a very distinctive voice, and modernised some older poets. I enjoyed hearing the different ‘versions’, and loved that he had decided to publish the original poet alongside the poems he had written in response, instead of just crediting the titles.
That afternoon we had a reading from Katrina Naomi and Malika Booker. Katrina’s work looked at the family and all had a gentle violence and twist to them. She read some very personal poems and had the room in the palm of her hand. Malika Booker, fresh from her dash through blistering heat in Kendal, read her forward prize nominated poem and others from her collection. Her performance style is intense, and there is not a chance that anyone’s attention wandered for a second from her cutting poems. I also read in the segment, and would love to thank every single person who was so very lovely to me after I had performed. It boosted my courage so much that when I got home I uploaded a poem to YouTube that I had been nervous about for a very long time.
Unfortunately those were the only readings I could make it to, as the heat was not my friend that weekend and I was not feeling very well at all. I attended Katrina Naomi’s wonderful workshop on Sunday, which has encouraged me to try and stretch my poems further and try and make them last over a page. After this I packed up and went home. It was a fabulous weekend filled with lovely people who all gathered for the same reasons. A passion for poetry.
See you for the next one!