Poetry Parnassus blog 1 & 2

Blog #2 The first day of the festival proper was a really remarkable, exciting, exhausting and profound stretch of poetry and discussion and happenings. It began for me at 9am and finished around 11pm.....
I carried a lot of those thoughts into the World Poetry Summit, which was a chance for people with a stake in poetry, its reception and its growth, to discuss a myriad of issues that specifically related to the art in the current climate. I chaired a genuinely engaged discussion with Rocio Ceron, Tom Chivers, Tishani Doshi and Christodoulos Makris about whether Tradition v Innovation was a still a truism in poetry, and how we might move past that dualism into the future with new understandings of poetry, and new and different methodologies and attitudes. As continued to be the case throughout the day, the atmosphere was eloquent and forceful, but never didactic or declarative. People were genuinely interested to listen and learn as well as express.
From the Summit, I had the pleasure of watching the first Lunch poems event, which featured Gerdur Kristny, Bewketu Seyoum and Pekko Kappi, all of whom I had interviewed. The sun was ridiculously hot on the QEH roof garden which bode well for the Rain of Poems going ahead in the evening.

I was joined by my friends Alexander Kell and David Kelly, who are both in residence throughout the week of Poetry Parnassus in order to document the events through photography and art respectively. Their work, from image to drawing to collage, will form part of the post Poetry Parnassus exhibition, curated by Chris McCabe and housed in the Poetry Library. We stayed in the Poetry Library for sometime, with Alexander taking portraits of at least two dozen poets and capturing the moment they signed the World Record book of Record and the specially made Parnassus desk in the front of the library.
I described the feeling of the first day at the festival like being in the army – great lulls in between intense exertion, but somehow the day had a very specific rhythm, one that was continuing dotted with unique and fascinating encounters with poets from around the world. The idea that the immensity of the conflagration would see egos clashing, or prima donna poets strutting around the poets village seems laughable now – the air of relaxation, of informality and friendliness  is ubiquitous.

Blog #: I will be writing this blog, hopefully full of videos, images, artworks and recollections throughout the Poetry Parnassus which is begins tomorrow morning and runs all the way to Sunday evening.
We had our first contact this evening, a chance for many of the poets who are arriving minute by minute from around the world to meet with their British counterparts and the myriad of tireless organisers from the Southbank centre. Often these occasions feel like a slightly tepid school disco but everyone was genuinely enthused and relaxed and in a wholly earnest and positive mood. The ambition of the project, it’s clear desire to strike out against cynicism has really left everyone who is lucky enough to be part of this project feeling humbled by its size and keen to make their work speak. There is so much good work going to come out of the next six days, not just the readings, but the interchange between poets, their methodologies and the chance happenings which are the lifeblood of such understanding. This sense of creative freedom, to have the remarkable space we have in which to discuss, to write, to collaborate, really hit home, sitting in the Poet’s village. With so many poets around too, over 200 in all, the endless possible interchanges are almost overwhelming.
Simon Armitage and Martin Colthorpe gave warm, welcoming speeches and Jude Kelly spoke with a real sense of inspiration and purpose about the project and its origins, and its goals. I will quite rightly end this slight beginning to the blog by bringing attention to the remarkable work of Anna Selby and Bea Colley, Jana Stefanovska and Emma Mottram, who, amongst many others, have been astounding under heavy fire in putting the thing together