by Michelle

Photograph: Nicola Bailey

Last month I had the pleasure of attending the StAnza Poetry Festival in Scotland; it was really amazing; such a warm, convivial  and intimate atmosphere. The highlight for me was hearing the revelatory poetic genius of Alice Oswald, performing (since she doesn’t read) from Falling Awake. It was also brilliant to hear Vahni Capildeo and Sarah Howe read. I’ve come back to Sarah’s Loop of Jade with appreciation for its discursive, erudite tropes. Vahni is utterly subversive, supple, demanding, delightful in the way she creolises poetic form. I just loved her energy. I’m so grateful to Eleanor Livingstone and Annie Rutherford who do so much to welcome poets to Scotland.

I spoke on a panel about Border Crossings with Matthew Caley, R.A Villaneuva and David Evans. This session, hosted by Annie was live streamed and we shared some interesting provocations. I felt very supported that Tony Ward from Arc could be there.

I very much enjoyed speaking about Judith Wright on a panel with Jackie Kay, Scotland’s makar poet, who spoke about modernist poet and novelist Nan Shepherd. It was interesting that there were correspondences with both these writers. Wright and Shepherd had extended periods of poetic silence, and they were both environmentalists; Shepherd’s memoir of walking in the Cairngorm mountains took 37 years to publish, while Judith Wright’s political and poetic legacy has arguably never been fully recognised. Descendant of a privileged white Australian settler family, she fought fiercely and tirelessly against racism. I felt a little unprepared for this talk, being affected by grief and its accompanying moods, but the audiences were forgiving and Jackie Kay was warm and wonderful.

I loved reading in the Undercroft from The Herring Lass; and it was lovely meeting Tess Taylor, poet and Fulbright scholar based at Queen’s University Belfast.

I also read at the O’Bheal reading in Cork, which was a terrific experience I’d recommend. I met some lovely students, and enjoyed my time there, especially pleasant to explore the Lee river, and have time for shopping.

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