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Poetry Now Festival Address

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Kate Dempsey

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I went to quite a few events at the wonderful Poetry Now Festival and I thought I’d share my updates here..

I have already posted this on my blog emergingwriter

The Canadian poet, Ann Carson gave the keynote address at the Poetry Now Festival on Thursday night. She was the first woman poet to win the TS Eliot prize. The theatre was packed to the rafters but only the gentle waft of disco drum and bass was to be heard over her address. She was introduced by Belinda McKeon, the festival curator, and came on to warm applause.

Her long discourse started with untranslatable words used in Homer’s work when talking about things that come from the Gods. With a made up word, the reader has to pause. And that’s good for the Gods. At least I think that’s what she said. She also told us that Cliche is an onomatopoeiaic word, being the sound the printer’s stereotype made when hitting the paper. A over-frequently used phrase having it’s own stereotype made up.

She moved on to Joan of Arc who refused to define the ‘voices’ that told her how to live her life, and death. She was illiterate so her words were spoken in Middle French and translated into court, legalise Latin. But she mangled her meaning when she did not want the meaning to be cut and dried to the judges’ understanding of contemporary angels and various visitations. At least I think that’s what she said.

Moving swiftly on to Francis Bacon, she said that he wanted to paint a scream. Not a person screaming per se but a sensation of a scream. She made particular reference to his picture of a version of a Velasquez picture of a Pope Innocent X.

Then onto some German dude who translated Homer into German but turned his untranslatable words into words that were more sensation than sense. And they locked him up. He wanted to rip the lids off words and plunge his arms in. See PJ Nolan’s blog for more on this.

Loads of ideas fired one after the other late at night was hard to keep up for this member of the MTV generation. My mind would wander off following one thought and when I came back, she’d moved on. Worth going though.

Belinda also made the, not unexpected, announcement that the Poetry Now festival as a standalone festival is no more. From 2012, it will be incorporated into the Mountains and Sea literary festival which happens in September. With its own curator, it hopes to introduce poetry to more than just the regular die hards.

There’s another very good write up here  and a transcription of a version of the lecture here.

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