Sunday, 23 September 2012

Wymondham Words Festival / National Gallery

Moniza Alvi at the Poetry Busking in the Market Square, 15 September

I haven't been blogging as it has been the Wymondham Words Festival all week, with today (written on Saturday) and tomorrow to go, though I shall be missing most of today as I am in London to do a follow-up workshop on Titian at the National Gallery.

As it turns out there are eighteen female students and only one male. In fact there are only two men in the room, the other being me. My fellow tutor, Frances Leviston, the excellent support from the National Gallery and the Arvon Foundation, are all female. The experience of the group is mixed. Some are writers, some are artists, some have not written poetry at all, some have written books.

But here's an odd thing.

At one point I make a suggestion that the over-intellectualisation or schematisation of a poetic idea may not be productive. It's a general point. I believe it to be the case, but one of the older woman scoffs: That's a man talking.

I am not quite sure what act of misogyny I have committed. If I had said something like, That's a woman talking I'd be eaten alive, like Actaeon. My actual response was: It's a poet talking, and over-intellectualisation is what men are usually accused of.

A little too civilised perhaps. A little too cowed perhaps. The perfect answer would have been: In that case you need take no notice. 

In any case I now understand why there is only one male student.


Then a dash back to Norfolk to arrive just in time for the evening event, the poetry cabaret with Luke Wright, John Osborne, Nathan Penlington and Yanny Mac with music from Librarian Girls. This is a night for the young poets whose core activity is performance - and they are some of the best in the country.

I don't do performance exactly but admire some of those who do and am looking forward to this. And I am right to do so

Very good attendance and a very good show, nice music with lovely voice, ending with Nathan Penlington doing magic and Luke Wright performing some of his work.

Wright is a brilliant performer, at a very professional level beyond the informality of most poetry readings. The poems are virtuosic, funny and inventive, and his timing and balance are spot on. There is definitely a touch of Elvis or Billy Fury on Luke's physical performance, but it remains him entirely: it's his inner Elvis.  I loved it. He could have gone for a long time and I'd still have loved it. The material is excellent and finely honed.

I'll do a complete review of the whole festival as soon as I can, while it's still all fresh in the memory.


It has been a whirlpool of activity and continues to be. Trying to keep up with work is a mad business.

My new children's book, In the Land of the Giants is out now. It looks like this:

It's a lovely small thing with some 80pp. A section of the book consists of picture by daughter Helen, done when she was 9, with the poems I wrote for them. The poems are of all periods. We'll be launching the book next week locally and then again, even more locally. After that we'll do a presentation at The Poetry Cafe on 15 December, with music by the splendid guitarist Andy Kirkham.

Stray thoughts. All will be gathered together in due course.


Mark Granier said...

'...but one of the older woman scoffs: That's a man talking.'

What an extraordinarily odd thing to say. Did no one else object, or simply ask her what she meant?

Trofim said...

'...but one of the older woman scoffs: That's a man talking.'

I call this "areciprocity"- it's a characterteristic of Islam too - one rule for us, but woe betide you if you attempt to apply it to your lot.

panther said...

Sympathies, George, this sounds like good old completely non-apologetic gender hatred.No excuse

But (and this isn't an "I'm about to try and excuse the person" but), why does this explain why there was only one male student in the group?

The other people should have challenged this remark, definitely.This is what I don't get about so much gender-hatred. If someone had said "That's a Jew talking", it would have been challenged without hesitation (and rightly so). Wouldn't it? Or (in another but similar situation), "That's a black talking." Remarks about race and ethnicity are usually sat upon (in this kind of gathering, anyway, not at the EDL's annual conference, obviously) but equally nasty and demeaning comments about someone's gender are allowed to pass.

Trofim has just taught me a new word.

George S said...

Hi panther - Does it explain? Yes, in the sense that ever fewer men go into a situation where they fear that the majority of women may be predisposed against them.

The fact that they are not so predisposed doesn't remove the fear. Why risk it? they think. So they don't come in the first place. They think they will have to be constantly on guard in case they say anything that might seem ofensive to someone else.

I would never say anything by way of criticism based on gender - either way - but I have taught a very long time and have a great deal of experience. It's not that I am suppressing anything I really want to say, simply that I am aware that whatever I say about anything - most particularly about gender - had best be perfectly put. In any case, I am the tutor - my efficiency depends on it.

havantaclu said...

George - as an 'older woman' myself, I can only apologise for my coeval (if that's the right word). So I won't go on with a 'but'.

There are still issues on both sides of the gender divide.

End of rant.


George S said...

That is a hardly a rant, Jeni.

And you're right. There are indeed issues on both sides.

panther said...

George, i see what you're saying. Of course. No-one wants to go in into a situation where they sense the people there are (or might be hostile.)

I haven't encountered this kind of remark (cutting either way) in a group, but would challenge it if I did. Is it a common occurrence, do you think? If so, that's very worrying.

Something i have encountered (and this in no way cancels out your right to be upset and angry with this woman) is groups of both men and women in which maybe two or three men somehow take over and dominate the entire discourse through a mixture of loud voices and arrogant dismissal.This tends to lead to women (and more circumspect men) who might have spoken feeling that they can't, or that whatever they say will be met with more loudness and dismissal.

Anyway, I'm sorry. She shouldn't have made the remark, end of. A gathering like this can be so fruitful if people attend in a spirit of curiosity and also with respect for all their colleagues there. In fact, I'd say those things are prerequisites.

Gwil W said...

The 'older woman' may have psychological problems.

Scenario: She was maybe born into a male dominated family and had a father with so-called Victorian values such as cleanliness, silence, church going, and strict discipline and was maybe soundly thrashed at school for writing with her left hand r something and maybe also at home. Consequently a hatred of men took root. There's invariably a story behind the story if one looks deep enough.

But on the other hand my scenario may be completely wrong and she might simply be a twit.

Good luck with the book. Nice cover!

Gwil W said...

George, as you spend half your life on trains you might enjoy my blogpoem of today 'Strangers on a train'. Clackityclack it has not!