I am particularly proud of this for many reasons, but mostly because the poetry really is my own, authentic voice right now. Good and bad, there is no escaping the inevitable.

Let’s see where it takes me.

Today

Still not over it. Unlikely I ever will be.

These are the moments that reshape your direction.

The End is the Beginning is the End

The smart amongst you will know this was written after the fact, when I was home, because there was simply not the brain space that existed to properly process at the time. If truth be told, there is still not the space to do that. I’m continuing to break it down and manage the changes to my outlook. This has already affected my work, and when I’m finally awake? TRUST ME. I’m gonna be proper deadly.

Sunday was Nafeesa Hamid, a British Pakistani poet based in the Midlands. She’s also uncompromising when it comes to discussion of mental health, and the second poet I know who’s been sectioned. This is the collection I will be buying, and again I wish I’d had the courage to ask for a signed copy… we’ll get there. We’ll UTTERLY get there.

This is the moment where I admit I’d never heard of Carola Luther until I saw her. The work was quiet, thoughtful and reflective, which worked perfectly in opposition to Nafeesa. It was the perfect end to a stupendous weekend. I also have to give massive snacks and props to the Young Poets who supported all these behemoths of the poetry world and did not seem to bat an eyelid when doing so. Oh, to have that level of confidence at any part of my life.

I have a massive debt of thanks to pass to Clare, Kim and Katie who organized all this. My horizons have been broadened and my possibilities scattered. There was so much more to add to this too: conversations with random attendees, the joy of the Open Mic and early morning poetry writing sessions, Kendal in general (which I’d love to have the time to explore further) and the emergent realization that all this can be something I do and experience without fear or doubt.

This has been the best three days away I’ve had for many, MANY years.

You and Me Song

I have to admit there was an ulterior motive, making the 600 miles or so round trip with my husband (very graciously) doing all the driving. It was all about walking into a place I’d only seen in pictures and never visited. It was also having to make myself known to people that had only been met online. This has happened before, on several occasions, it must be said, but back then it was different. The person I am now carries things that never encumbered me back then. It was not the same. I am here, now, a much better person.

I didn’t like myself very much at all back then.

Day Two at the Festival and I listened to Victoria Adukwei Bulley read poetry that was uncompromising and often uncomfortable to hear. There was a poem about Ultra Black Fish (third on the linked page) that hit me so hard in the brain, I’m still recovering from the impact. Their debut has just been published and if you fancy buying me Quiet, it’s on my Throne Wishlist :D

As a neurodivergent, however, I will admit Jane Burn was the reason why I’d picked the session. It was a master stroke of programming to get me with both poets, let’s be honest. Jane did not disappoint. I was too nervous to go ask for a signed book, though. Next time, for absolute definite. Jane is a fucking force of nature, and you need to see them live. I also especially approve of performing barefoot.

Then it was about wandering around, feeling faintly nauseous, and getting to the point where it was time to do the Open Mic.

It went okay. It was the best performance I’ve managed, exceeding the 20-minute set on Zoom. Now all there has to be is an actual collection to perform, though when it gets to that I think I’d like to do what Jonathan Davidson suggested in a workshop I did with him: first half needs to be other people’s poems I really enjoy/has inspired me and second half is my own stuff. That seems like a wonderful way of acknowledging the path that’s been walked to get to this point.

Don’t tell anyone, but I didn’t really sleep at all, Saturday to Sunday.

I was too busy flying around the larger Universe I’d discovered.

Old Friends

To help with my anxiety, I will often imagine what it will be like in stressful situations in order to manage the inevitable expectations (or not) that follow. Never in my WILDEST DREAMS could I have imagined what happened on Friday night. It still wears the t-shirt of unreality: how did this happen? How has my life not really understood the significance of these new online friendships? When will I next get to buy Kim Moore a beer?

Friday night was a revelation. Firstly, I met Imtiaz Dharker. The Universe opened a door to a place I did not know existed, and in she walked. The sonnet she wrote about her husband, after his passing, is possibly one of the most perfect pieces of poetry I have ever heard.

It was also the night when I got to see Joelle Taylor perform for the first time. Nobody has ever used Zoom in quite that way before for me ever, and it was enough to reduce me to tears.

There will be those who might try and malign the hybridity of this, but the visuals worked perfectly. The microphone is being performed behind. That’s the key. This is the space where magic is created, and it was just that. This was the perfect balance of female experience too, from different spaces and into an incredibly willing mind. Even now, I’m still not totally sure it all took place at all. It had the intensity of a fever dream and the impact of a full-blown storm.

By the end of the evening, I knew I’d made the right choice to travel in person, though. It would have been magnificent at home, but being there was transcendent.

That T-shirt is now one of the most important things I own. It was properly earned too…