Wednesday, October 26, 2005

is poetry just another form of therapy?

Here at last are the photos and brief account of my time at the Torbay Poetry Festival that I promised you a few days ago. I'm still not entirely recovered - too much wine, not enough sleep, etc. But at least I'm able to get back to writing now. For this relief, much thanks, as I have a deadline for the middle of next month and another 15,000 words of my novel to write.

I drove down alone in the pouring rain to Torbay, as my husband was busy with work all that weekend and couldn't join me. Luckily, I already knew quite a few people there and soon made new friends from among those I didn't know, so I didn't miss him and was actually quite glad in the end that he wasn't there. Absent cats and over-active mice spring to mind!

The highlight of the festival for me was the lively debate on Saturday morning between proposer Geoffrey Godbert - 'Poetry is just another form of therapy' - and Moira Clark - 'Utter nonsense!'

My sympathies lay with Moira (and not just because she was wearing a waistcoat, which took me back to my snooker-playing days). The whole idea of poetry as therapy brings me out in a rash. Needless to say, commonsense prevailed and Moira won the debate without too much difficulty: 3 votes for, 9 against, and 10 cowardly abstentions.

Peter Porter was the guest reader at the Festival Supper, a sumptious affair which I heartily recommend for anyone thinking of attending next year. I did writhe a little at the ticket price on booking but the poetry reading by Peter Porter was excellent and highly entertaining - time to buy his Selected, I think - and the delicious three course dinner with generous amounts of wine was clearly worth every penny. I got pleasantly drunk and sat next to a man in a banker's suit who turned out to share my love of H. Rider Haggard's more obscure novels. What better way to spend an evening than discussing the literary merits of Nada the Lily over a bottle of dry white wine and a plate of raspberry pavlova?

I shall certainly try to make next year's Festival, which felt more like a warm and relaxed family reunion than a series of disparate poetry events. William and Patricia Oxley, the key organisers, managed to run the Festival in an efficient but wonderfully informal fashion, with many other helpers giving up their time to keep things moving smoothly. Patricia, of course, is editor of the intelligent and long-running Acumen poetry magazine, based in the South-West and publishing poets from all over the world. Poetry is their life, and that sense of enthusiasm and in-depth knowledge came across at every event.

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