Martin Kratz will be giving a whistle stop tour of some of our Festival Poets during his forty five minute session. He will be looking at the general themes that many of the poets explore in their work. If you can only make a select few of our events this year, it would be an excellent idea to book in to this talk. Or, if you haven’t heard any of a particular poets’ work and would like a preview, this is the event for you! The event is running on Friday 16th June, and would be ideal for those who are going to see Jack Mapanje from 3-4pm, as this event runs from 5-5.45pm, giving you the opportunity to grab something to eat before hand, then there will be time for a quick cup of tea or coffee before the launch begins at 6.30pm! You can book tickets here. See you there!
HH: What is your personal background?
MK: I live in Manchester with my family. I am an Associate Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University. I have a particular interest in poetry. Currently, I am working on a project on John Keats. While I’m in this part of the world I’ll be visiting some of the places he wrote about in his letters. He came here on a walking tour in 1818.
HH: What will you be doing at the festival this year?
MK: I am giving a whistle-stop tour of the Festival. I’ll be talking about the poets who are reading and looking at some of my favourite poems. I have also tried to identify any themes that link this year’s writers. Family seems to be a particularly strong subject this year.
HH: Why is poetry about the family important and why?
MK: I have been wondering about this connection. The Old English epic ‘Beowulf’ is a poem full of passages which list various family trees. That recollection sparked something in my mind about the link between the poetic line and ancestral lineages. Lines and lineages. Perhaps it has something to do with the way poetry might have functioned as a mnemonic device, helping to establish the provenance of certain powerful families …a kind of litany of power.
This is a pretty narrow version of family though, and a far cry from the way family is considered these days and in the poetry at this year’s festival. Here, the scope of family is very broad, and involves poems of redress, memory, speculation, and reimagining … Ultimately, the common denominator in poetry about family is love. Even when it’s lacking. And given that love is the driving concern of so much poetry, it’s perhaps not surprising to find the family given that much attention.
HH: In these times of uncertainty do you feel that poetry about the family makes people feel reassured? Is that why it is so popular? Or do you think there is another reason?
MK: I don’t know. Poetry certainly can have that reassuring quality you’re talking about. In this year’s line-up, you have something of that, but mostly you have family presented as the often challenging, knotty thing it can be. There’s no reaching after easy nostalgia. Family doesn’t just happen. It would be nice if it did. But family actually takes work, and perhaps the poetry is part of that work. Also, in difficult times we are reminded of what’s important to us of course.
What I have been struck by in particular is the recurrence of the grandparent as a prominent figure. I suspect that in literature the grandparent is a figure that is often written about pretty generically and too simplistically. Grandparents can often be represented as uncomplicated and one-dimensional… this year’s poetry definitely challenges that idea.
HH: What advice would you give to anyone looking to write poetry about the family?
MK: Read! There are so many different ways to conceive of the idea of family and to write about it, whether you’re writing about real families or imagined ones. In the end, you should write what you have to. Perhaps, write what you know. But read what you don’t.