Sunday, April 06, 2008

Oxford Sunday Times Literary Festival, & other delights

Apologies for being so silent this week. I've been very much occupied with non-internet business, including a few days away from home at the Oxford Literary Festival.

I had a great time in Oxford and am still recovering somewhat. I stayed one night in Christ Church itself, which is a beautiful and stately - though rather sinisterly imposing - college. I had the devil's own job getting through the gate on arrival, security there being tighter than at Buckingham Palace. But their cooked breakfast was good!

On the Festival front, I attended several live literature events around the town, including an important ClimateX collaboration with poetry performers from Hammer & Tongue. The night before that, I witnessed the best live act I've ever seen: the magnificent Chloe Poems, whose powerful delivery and emotional range I cannot praise highly enough. (This interview does not do her justice as an artist.)

Later I had the amused pleasure of listening to three Grumpy Old Men read their poetry, i.e. Tom 'Troubles' Paulin, Jamie McKendrick and the admittedly not grumpy but rather lovely Bernard O'Donoghue. A very different act to that of Chloe Poems!

Plus, I spent many happy hours bent over books in the Radcliffe Camera, researching an article I'm writing for PN Review on the relevance of Old English to the world of contemporary poetry.

On returning home, I found sick children and a sudden inspection of our rented house pending. Since I'm the sort who likes to hang up her clothes on the floor, this last has proved particularly wearing on the soul.

I also had to go straight back out again that night to hear Mario Petrucci read in Coventry, a poet I've known since we met on an Arvon course in 1995, when we were both still unpublished. A few of us went for a curry afterwards in a backstreet balti house, which worked out at roughly a fiver per head. Astonishing value, and a fabulous poetry evening to boot.

No time to relax though once this dreaded inspection is over. I'm now reviewing another book for the excellent Tower Poetry, plus a few more for Poetry Review, and I still have a novel to finish this summer.

Not that I'm complaining, not a bit of it. As the lovely Penny Lane (played by Kate Hudson) says in Almost Famous: 'It's all happening!'

Now playing: Various Artists - America
via FoxyTunes


Bo said...

Heard Geoffrey Hill read at the OLF on friday - marvellous voice, his own stuff and Milton. You should have called in while you were here!
Sorry for silence: this mabinogi things has convulsed me for a week. Nearly finished; have taken a leaf from your mother's book and, well, written a whole book. Not sleeping, hardly eating, manic energy....!

Queen of Romance said...

Sorry chicken, I did consider arranging to meet up with you, but hell, I had about half an hour's spare time the entire time I was in town - and the last time I took you to a live lit performance with me, you were seriously underwhelmed ...

Sounds like you've been undergoing a Uranian transit too. Stephen Arroyo recommends the eating of large bowls of Granola for Uranian transits. I'm not sure about Granola, or its availability in the UK, but certainly a high fibre diet helps, especially with insomnia and a racing heart, etc.

I'm very glad you heard - and enjoyed! - Geoffrey Hill. He is a fascinating character and a great poet, isn't he? (And he was very kind about some of the poems in 'Boudicca & Co.' which he didn't need to be.)

You've already met his wife, I believe, at a dinner the other month. Alice?

Apologies for signing this comment from my Charlotte Lamb blog, btw: I've been updating it at last, after several months' silence, and couldn't be bothered to sign out and then back in again.

Queen of Romance said...

PS. Re the live lit thing, I have a sneaking suspicion you would have loved Chloe Poems!

Sorlil said...

All this and still managing to write a long poem??? I'm worn out just reading about it!

Jane Holland said...

You and me both!

Though the long poem, as I said on your blog today, is essentially coming to life in a very sketchy note form - and some of it may actually stay in that form forever if it feels appropriate, so it's not as extreme as it may sound, doing all these things and writing at the same time. Though it does feel extreme at times.

Hurrah for extreme! Jane's life motto: 'Plenty of time for sleep when I'm dead.'

Bo said...

I'm sure I would!
GH was amazing. Wonderful, sonourous voice. I did meet his wife, yes. Very interesting woman.

Rachel Fox said...

I love 'Almost Famous'..particularly the Mum who drives around outside gigs calling to her son 'don't do drugs'. I could have done with her...or I may turn into her!
Chloe P is fantastic...did she do 'I want to be fucked by Jesus'? In Christchurch?

Jane Holland said...

Worse, Rachel. Far worse. Chloe Poems performed both 'I want to be fucked by Jesus' and 'The Queen sucks Nazi cock' in the vaults of the venerable St Mary the Virgin, Radcliffe Square. Brilliantly though, it has to be said.

I am infamous for quoting 'Almost Famous' to my children, especially down the phone to my eldest daughter or directly to her friends. Thus: 'I know what's going on' or 'Don't do drugs!' or 'It's not too late for you to become a person of substance' or sometimes even 'Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid. Goethe said that.'

The standard reply? 'Your mum really freaks me out.'

Jane Holland said...

P.S. After the 'Don't do drugs' line, I'm usually sent off with a flea in my ear and a stern Note to Self: 'Don't give hypocritical advice.'

For I was not always the clean-cut, clean-living individual you see - metaphorically speaking - before you now. Oh no, indeed.

Rachel Fox said...

When I first watched the film I saw the mother as uptight (because - ho ho - drugs were still fun). Now I watch and think how sensible she is and that (most likely) she knows, from experience, how the fun does not always stay fun.
I love that Jesus poem. That's what I call coming out with it...