That Talk: Glyn Maxwell and Simon Armitage at the Chester Literature Festival

24 10 2015

The hall is pleasantly packed and hums
with whispered voices like a weekday wine bar
or an autumnal garden near the village road.
The space echoes handsomely.

The compere stands outside, a robin
singing warm welcome, his wings wider
than the open doors. He shuffles from foot to foot,
checks his watch, nibbles a fingernail.

Across the room is a face I see and recall. Remember?
We talked on a commuters’ train to Crewe, before you
interviewed me for a place on a teaching course there.
Then shared the trainride back home, a decade ago.

The poets arrive, bless the congregation
with a shared prayer and then sit. The raised stage
quickly becomes a kitchen conversation and invisible smokes
of cigarette coax concealed wine glasses,

chandeliers soften to down lights,
coughs become the dog yawning and both men forget the crowd
that listens like an eavesdropper to their secrets,
complicit. Each hopes the other won’t reveal them.

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Shijiazhuang Education Seminar – 2015

15 10 2015

IMG_1575 Having taught English in China in 2004, when the opportunity to return to Shijiazhuang to deliver a speech at a seminar centred on reading and scientific literacy was presented to me, I was eager to accept.  Then, however, came the practicality of preparing for the speech, preparing for the convoluted route via Hing Kong and preparing to deliver to a room of five hundred teachers.  Shijiazhuang had me immediately nostalgic; the population had grown as much as the skyline but the streets were still quick to smile familiar structures at me and to wink temperate skies.

I stuck to the scriptnotes I had contrived for the translators to follow, referred to Keira Knightly more than anyone has done in literacy lecture and generally bluffed my way through thirty minutes of a twenty minute session by parrying applause-less moments with terrible Chinese.

A success, sort of.  I thought. A former pupil of mine at the school sat beside me, balancing on the arm rest of the chair.

‘It was hard to believe your Chinese could get any worse.  It was also very, very long; luckily, I think you were stood on the microphone wire for most of the second half.’

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Poet in Residence @ Chester Literature Festival 2015

26 09 2015

  the full events list can be found at:
http://www.chesterperforms.com/literature/