Bath Literature Festival: Part 3 – The Poetry Salon

Rebecca Perry - bookThe final part of my day at the Bath Literature Festival was a ‘Poetry Salon’ (a combined interview and reading) with Tim Liardet and Rebecca Perry. Neither of these poets were known to me prior to the event, but when deciding which events to attend, I had looked them up and thought their work sounded interesting.  

Tim Liardet teaches creative writing at Bath Spa University, and his tenth poetry collection, The World Before Snow, has been shortlisted for the T.S.Elliot prize. Rebecca Perry is a graduate of the creative writing programme at Manchester University. Her first full book, Beauty/Beauty, came out in 2015.

The ‘poetry salon’ took place in a room called ‘The Salon’ within Bath’s Guildhall. I did have to ask directions to the room twice, and once there I was slightly frustrated at having to wait out in the corridor until five minutes before the event was due to start, while they carried out sound checks. This would have been fine, except that it was also the location of the toilets, and so the corridor became crowded with people getting in each other’s way for a few minutes.

Inside The Guildhall

Inside The Guildhall

Perry read first, beginning with a poem about the Simpsons character ‘Millhouse’: a sensitive portrayal, both comic and tragic at the same time. Another of Perry’s poems which I found particularly engaging was ‘Hello Little Bird’, based on communication with her friend who is living in the Maldives and missing Britain. The irony of living in a beautiful tourist destination yet missing the cold and rainy weather of the UK comes across well. There was a slightly surreal moment when, as Perry read, the clear trilling of a blackbird seemed to be competing with her voice, despite the cold February evening, and the fact that it was pitch black outside!

Liardet then read from his book The World Before Snow which, he said, “tells an idiosyncratic love story in an idiosyncratic way” using “the self-portrait as a lens for exploring self”. He explained that the book was an attempt to “reinvent” both the self-portrait and the love story.

My favourite poem of his was ‘Self-Portrait with Hiss and Rattle of Sleet’ – a beautiful, loving, close observation of sleet – a cascade of strong words, one after the other, almost like sleet itself. He also read ‘Self-Portrait with Aquarium Octopus Flashing a Mirror’, a poem about an octopus he “met in Barcelona, in a huge aquarium”. I enjoyed this poem but I’m not sure why. I think I’ll have to look up his book and read it for myself.

Sources of Inspiration

After reading their work there was more discussion, and an opportunity for the audience to ask questions (they seemed reluctant at first). Both poets spoke about their source of inspiration. Liardet described how he normally lets life “dictate” what to write next, saying that “once you write about what actually happened, it becomes something different – it escalates into something beyond itself”, but he then went on to describe how recently he has been writing, not afterwards, but “whilst in the middle of experiencing the emotion”.

Tim Liardet's book The World Before SnowThe poets also discussed their plans. Perry said that she has not written much since finishing work on her book in September 2014, but is now being drawn towards more abstract writing. Liardet described being inside “the sterile zone you enter when you finish a book – a kind of low grade depression”, saying that he has written a number of “interim poems” recently, while waiting for the next project idea to present itself.

They discussed the ‘poetry world’ as well, and Liardet made some interesting comments about how everything is very prescribed in this area of work, with certain “eerie protocols” that must be observed. Both poets agreed that the British poetry scene is still heavily weighted towards white males, and Liardet described how Sarah Howe (both female and Asian) winning the T.S.Eliot Prize was a positive break in the cycle.

I thoroughly enjoyed this event, despite not having read either of the poets’ work beforehand, and have been inspired to read some of their work when I can get my hands on it. I did have to rush to the station for my return journey to Cardiff, but I was very glad to have made the trip.

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  1. Pingback: Bath Literature Festival: Part 2 – Jane Austen |

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