Friday, 6 May 2011

World Class Poetry Day

“Love adorns itself; it seeks to prove inward joy by outward beauty.
Love does not claim possession,
but gives freedom
Love is an endless mystery, for it has nothing else to explain it.
Love's gift cannot be given,
it waits to be accepted”.

Sharpham Poetry Fair – a houseful of poems
I've been to the Sharpham Estate many times. The beauty of the building and its location on the Dart never fail to move me, actually the place blows me away. As I turned the corner to the entrance, gentle music drifted from speakers and I was greeted by the view of the river below and the bright green growth of the woodlands lining the Ancient river's embankment. A river brought into national and international consciousness by Alice Oswald and her tribute to its waters and the life touched by it. Alice was present and organised the poetry day at Sharpham including an impressive selection of local, and global poets.

As I entered the main building and walked through to the foot of the grand staircase I was hit by that familiar festival feeling – which event to go to? I wanted to be in more than one room at once. There were a series of stairwell performances mixed with open performances in the various rooms on the ground floor including a captivating, interactive digital tribute to Tagore by Jerome Fletcher and J.R Carpenter.

Matt Harvey made his second appearance at the festival. I've probably heard his 'Thwoc' tennis tone poem, created during his residency at Wimbledon Tennis Club, performed live at least 5 times. I try and resist it, wanting something new, but each time he gets to the match point of the piece I am humbled into submission by the fact that this is a gentle work of genius. He told me after the event that his father was illustrating the poem and a book was in the pipeline. This I want to see.

Yet another festival first for me was Zena Edwards. Zena mixes her soulful voice, street speak and a prodigious gift for sharp, emotive poetry like a DJ – powerful, moving and magical. Her song, words and rhythms filled the stairwell and brought the house to fierce life. I moved closer, sat on the hard floor and looked up the stairwell to the audience leaning over the balcony, realising this space was refreshingly unique in providing a performance platform that could be seen from above below and at eye level. I found myself drawn to watching the crowd as much as the performer. Poetry surrounded me in the form of artist, performance space and audience.

The final performance of the evening was due to be from poetic champions Simon Armitage, former poet laureate Andrew Motion and Brian Patten. Brian and Andrew made it but Simon had broken his leg that morning, the announcement drawing gasps from the crowd. Motion and Patten filled the space Simon sadly had left, beautifully. These men make poetry look easy but it is clearly a result of many years hard graft. I had heard Patten's work on Radio 4's 'Poetry Please' many times, but to hear him in person was a powerful connecting experience, bringing me closer to the realms of death, friendship, shirts and dresses!

At the end of the event I found myself sitting outside in the warmth of the May evening on the same table as Andrew Motion, Matt Harvey, Tagore translator, Anuman Biswaz and London poet Malika Booker. It was for this writer and part -time poet a surprisingly relaxed (there is understandable awe and a little angst in this kind of company) and connected end to an evening of blazing, moving and thought provoking poetry.

Celebration for the power of the written word and its ability to connect us all to the beautiful, finer details of everyday life and the divinity that exists within it and us all.

Caspar Walsh is the film editor for Resurgence. He is an author, journalist and wilderness teacher. His new novel Blood Road is available in paperback.

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