... then hiding (in a park, or at my comfortable, secluded B and B - Harlequin-Ledbury, recommended!) to think and write... for me a perfect combination.
One of my highlights was a little exhibition of artists' books (Ledbury Book Arts) where I discovered the book art of Anthony Bateman. Anthony told me he is proud to live next door to John Masefield's childhood home, and he's made a beautiful art book from an edition of Masefield's work. Turning the pages with delight, I came upon the opening of Masefield's poem 'Tewkesbury Road', and was thrown straight back to childhood, to the first poems that moved me. I still carry in my head lines and phrases from this poem, learned by heart at primary school: 'the shy-eyed delicate deer', 'the dear wild cry of the birds'. I suspect that traces of Masefield's rhythms and images linger in my own writing.
I also loved the way the whole town seemed drawn into the festival spirit, with a shop window competition, poetry chairs around the streets and free and fringe activities too throughout the weekend.
I caught parts of 'Fair Field', a promenade version of Langland's 'PIers Plowman', too, brought up-to-date in anti-austerity style and performed around town and up in the Malvern Hills.
I cackled with the best of 'em at Nicholas Murray's feisty 'A Dog's Brexit'. Cathartic rage! (And shades of Bulgakov?)
And I carried home a pile of books for my 'to read next' shelf, from the poets I'd heard reading, too many to mention but perhaps the stand-out for me were Ana Blandiana, legendary Romanian 'Poet of Freedom' prize-winner, and Turkish/Kurdish poet Bejan Matur with her translator Jen Hadfield. These poems ('If This is a Lament') bear witness and lament without ever losing that sense of word-joy that poetry can give. Bejan's chapbook sold out before I could get to the book table - so I have it on order from the Poetry Translation Centre!
I guess for some of us, a poetry festival is the equivalent of an activity holiday, doing the things we love best in a different and beautiful setting. Thanks to the Ledbury Festival, I feel very fortunate to be able to do so.