Wednesday, 22 April 2015

IDEA at Inönü University, Malatya 2: Prequel

The Double Tree Hilton. I was on the sixth floor - at the back

I was going to write a number of posts from Malatya as the conference went on but days were so full and wifi contact being only available first thing n the morning and last thing at night, it grew impossible.

Furthermore, as soon as I returned on Sunday, I was committed to going back to London on Monday for the presentation of the Wingate / Jewish Quarterly Book Prize of which I was one of the judges and had to report back in a little detail on two books as well as say something of poetry on the long list and read one of my own poems. It's quite a long trip down to London and one gets back late so today is the first day I can take a shot at getting some of it down.

Even so I am doing it while reviewing the new Penguin Book of Russian Poetry for the New Statesman and reading the work of about twenty poets in preparation for the day of Oxford teaching and reading on Monday at Kellogg College (staying overnight Sunday and Monday). Tomorrow night I am in London again, reading at Keats's House. Once back from Oxford I am reading in London (with Katharine Kilea and Mona Arshi) the following Friday and taking part in a conversation at the South Bank on Saturday before rocketing off to Lumb Bank to teach a solid week of the Arvon Course with novelist Monique Roffey, and back in London again on Sunday to read at Imperial College in a reprise of the Mathematics of Freedom project.

Sometimes it is hard to get one's breath.


Let me, all the same, put down as much as I can about my stay in Malatya, about the conference, the themes, the papers, the people, the evenings and days.

I should preface this all by saying it was a terrific conference with something like 120 papers, three keynote addresses, of which I gave one, as did Ian Galbraith and John Stotesbury, special sessions on the hundredth anniversary of Gallipoli with Australian poet Robyn Rowland and others. The presenters included poets, playwrights, novelists, scholars, and students at various levels from doctorate down to masters.

All this takes serious organising and co-ordinating and if timetabling in Turkey is a flexible enterprise nevertheless everything gets done.

The whole was helped along by marvellous students generally - and rightly - referred to as 'angels' Such sweet, warm and efficient people deserve the highest praise. And since I expect some of them might be reading this I want to thank them, as I do all the senior academics who brought us together.


Having been part of the Writing and Reading in the Digital Era session with James Knight and Mauricio Montiel at the London Book Fair on the 14th the first flight I could get was 22:30. I had had to get up pretty early to get to Olympia for the LBF. It was a surprisingly warm day and if pushing my red trolley along while wearing a raincoat was a little uncomfortable on train, underground and bus it was even less comfortable inside Olympia which is very much like Baudelaire's 'fourmillante cité', a proper ant-swarming city. I have already said something about the event in a previous post so all that remains to say is that after a lovely lunch with Mauricio and James and Mauricio's friend, Ana, I made my way to Heathrow 2 and hung about for several hours before boarding.

The flight is about three and a half hours and sleep is not really an option since a meal is served at just the point one might fall asleep. Landing at Istanbul I made my way to domestic flights for the plane to Malatya. That's another two hours or so in less luxurious style than in the international part of the airport. The passengers were different too. Gnarled old men and women, the women veiled and scarved, one or two young men, a couple of men in business suits and hardly any girls. That's another hour and a half flight, still awake.

At Malatya I was met by one of the angels, Hurize, and one of the professors over from Ankara, a very nice guy with whom we kept up a conversation, along with some others arriving at the same time. By the time we arrived at the hotel I was walking dead. I had been awake for twenty-four hours. The idea was to take me straight to the conference to hear the first keynote (originally to have been given by me) by Ian Galbraith, but I asked if I could miss the morning sessions and grab some sleep, if only an hour. I was sorry to do this but had seen from the programme that, straight after the day finished we'd be taken to a reception at a hotel some way from town for abig meal. That was impossible.

So I went to my large room with all its mod cons, showered, and lay down on the bed, setting the alarm in time to be picked up in time for lunch.

I'll proceed from there in the next post.

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