London Lit Fest II

Now that I have established the background of the panel, in a literal and physical sense, I can mention one more time how I adored these conversations. Until now I did not mention names, because I initially felt that they were representing more their own culture than themselves. However, in this post I am not certain if it will be possible. Mainly, because Anne Carson was there.

The theme was a difficult one, how did biography and some aspects of the poet’s personal life help us analyse a poem. If they could at all. The matter seems simple enough. Except it is not.

Most of the discussion was around Plath, since the first speaker was a big fan of her. I can understand why, I am one of those fanatic Plath’s readers as well. And to the mention of her poem ‘Daddy’, tension and good humour absorbed the audience. Other controversial themes helped easing it away, ‘I’m going to talk about russians’ got a good response from us and so did my favourite ‘Money’, said Anne Carson. With a calm and wonderer voice. ‘But first,’ she added ‘I am going to talk about what happened in the hotel last night’. And that was how she captured my fascination. The meaning of poetry became even more real, there and then. She calmly told her situation when during the check-in she was asked if she wanted a room with a view for more twenty-five pounds per night. I can imagine now her calmly personality, with her questioning eyes saying a simple ‘no’. But then she arrives to the bedroom and she realizes there is a window occupying a whole wall, except it is all scratched. Nothing goes in or out except the day’s clarity and the darkness of the night. It is horrifying how the view can only be accessed if it is paid, even if it was there before. This is what she believes to be the relation between poetry and the world.

Other important remarks were made, an American academic, Plath’s lover, said that while writing a biography you are claiming something on that person, you are turning it into a matter and the truth is: no one lives on a thesis. The truth is: ‘some things hurt too much to write about’. Which means that is wrong to claim that someone wrote a poem or created a character based in just one truth.

Then we finally get to the Q&A point. I want to believe I will always remember the time someone asked ‘what about poets that write memoirs?’ and Carson, with the characteristics that I mentioned before, sneaking in the others’ silence slowly approached the microphone to say ‘Unreliable’. Among the audience’s laughs another writer approached the question to explain that she was a poet who wrote a memoir as true as she possibly could. But in the end she was not sure of how true it was.

From that point on I was dreaming with a coffee warming my hands, while listening a mad writer shouting: ‘isn’t that what poetry does?!’. My thoughts are not coherent at this point and I look at Anne Carson truly believing that I could write a whole post about her replies, specially all the traces around her honest ‘I don’t know’. But the academic does, we all do and agree with her statement. ‘If people were thinking harder, we wouldn’t be in this political situation. But that is a theme for another conversation’. Another time. When it is over. When it becomes History.

London Lit Fest I

Skipping the part where I got lost before finding the right room or having a coffee, we should start with a brief description of the landscape. My excitement went way behind what I expected. Way behind my appetite, which is usually my understanding of infinite. But not this time. I was there since the beginning, everyone seemed lost before entering the first room for the kick-off. I was amazed by the scenery. The international poets were sitting against a view of the dirtiest river I’ve ever got inspiration from, the London Eye and its new Christmas attraction and above all the old Big Ben. It was twelve o’clock, I felt I was in proper Britain for the first time. I wished the Big Ben had rung and turned the magic on. It did not seem necessary though. And History repeated itself.

Precisely fifty years ago, Ted Hughes would start this amazing event where international poets would be listened to. He believed that more than ever their History needed poetry. He believed more than ever poets needed to speak the ‘universal language of their heart’ and just like me, most of them arrived late. From what I understood, every year, this festival and their poets needed to be heard more than ever. After all, “the poem is our sword, our form of resistance”. And with the reading of his poem Skylarks, Ted Hughes launched us to London Literature Festival 2017.

I believe the first thing I noticed, after a good half an hour admiring the Southbank view, was the gestual language translators. My eyes leave them when the speakers say quotes that I want to remember forever, but as I know I won’t, I limit myself to quickly stretch it in my notebook. They use wonderful prose, from themselves, from their mentors, from the moment and the atmosphere in the room. And between “Poetry is our unique mother tongue” or expressions as “meeting in a poem” we are given explanations that can only be given by those who get inspired as simply as we do. I also love how the international speakers do not speak perfect english. How one can easily understand what they saying and what their cultural background is. It makes me smile for sharing more than the passion for poetry under those terribly strong lights. Indian, Chinese, British. And there is at least one more thing in common, they mention what I believe it was the key to start writing my own poetry: no one creates poetry for others. In fact, to write good poetry we have to find it within ourselves before meeting the others. Poetry is then against propaganda. And for that reason, inside that room no one took a single photo to the panel. We communicate with stares and sighs and smiles and gestures and even snoring. And then, later on, in the evening, by ourselves, we write it down pretty much how we felt to communicate to the others.