Saturday, 19 July 2008

Watershed 4: The collective noun for a group of poets

On Friday July 4th, Carol Ann Duffy gave a beautifully paced reading to a packed house. She was rewarded with the warmest applause and laughter that swept through Ledbury's Community Hall like wind across wheat.

I haven't heard her read since she came to The Queens Head near Brighton Station when Jackie Wills, Eva Saltzman and Don Paterson were running Brighton Poets in the nineties. The reading was in the large ground floor bar where the huge windows transmitted the diesel resonance of the buses going past, top deck passengers rubber-necking to catch a glimpse of what was going on. I think that was the same night a well known Brighton writer had been going it a bit on his blood pressure tablets and passed out after a half a pint of lager, so they might have seen a spectacular stool-topple.

After Carol Ann's reading the poets were invited to the Heritage Centre, a fifteenth century building, for a cider supper in the upstairs room. The floor sloped like the wedges of cheese accompanying the local pies, ham, beef , fruit and salads on offer. A number of distinguished poets from Finland and Latvia almost ended up on their backs as the floor's camber threatened to aid the work of gravity as they leant back on their chairs.

The Chair of the Festival , the marvellously calm Peter Arscott, welcomed the poets and mentioned that he had been trying to discover the collective noun for a group of poets. With barely a beat the northerly breeze of Carol Ann's voice sailed across the tables.

'A paranoia,' she said

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