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Magma, Philip Gross and Gillian Clarke at the Ledbury Poetry Festival

Jacqueline Saphra at the Magma Poetry desk at Ledbury Poetry Festival

The Magma Sales Table, being looked after by Jacqueline Saphra

Magma Poetry sponsored the reading by Philip Gross and Gillian Clarke that took place during the Ledbury Poetry Festival during the first half of July. Jacqueline Saphra and I, on behalf of Magma Poetry, went to Ledbury for the weekend to support the event and sell copies of the magazine there, and also to meet up with poets and poetry readers from across the country.

We left for Ledbury at 9.30 on the Friday morning so we would arrive in good time to see some events before the Magma sponsored reading the next day. We had with us snacks, a SatNav plus a Roadmap (no substitute for an actual book) and the boot was full of Magma paraphernalia for a Roadshow event – copies of the current issue, back issues, leaflets, and an as yet not-fully-functioning banner. We talked poetry and plays and the quality of coffee on the M40, and by the time we arrived at our guest house just outside Ledbury some four hours later, we had barely started our discussion about how long it takes to finish a poem.

We stayed at a rural, newly ‘done up’ guest house just outside town and, our self-imposed rule, as the driver, Jacqui had best room. They were both lovely. But mine had no door. Really – I’m over it now.

On the Friday we had tickets for “Penelope Shuttle and Poets from Cornwall ” in the afternoon, and an Elizabeth Cook / Jenny Joseph double-bill in the evening – both at the Burgage Hall. A wonderfully eclectic mix of female voices ranging from Arcadian bliss to the deeply disturbing. Between we had a chance to catch up with poetry colleagues normally only seen on-line, and to say hello to Chloe Garner, the Festival Director who allowed us to be part of the wonderful activities. Then the group of six of us who went to dinner grew until we didn’t really all fit round the table, and the waitress in the restaurant had slightly lost the plot. Who can blame her? We kept playing musical chairs and I think my neighbour ate the tuna ordered by Alice from Cornwall.

Jacqueline Saphra with chick!The next morning Jacqui and I set to fixing the banner. The hook had vanished meaning it would not stay open and pinged back with alarming force and noise. We made a new hook using a wire coat-hanger, pliers, a glue-gun and it was attached by the long arms of the guest-house owner’s son. Watching Blue Peter is clearly never a wasted pastime and the banner stayed up. In the middle of all this we were introduced to 2-day-old chicks bred by the aforementioned long-armed lad. And here is the photo to prove it.

We were honoured to sponsor the reading by T S Eliot Award winner Philip Gross, and National Poet of Wales Gillian Clarke. It was a truly packed house with the front-of-house team bringing in extra chairs at the back, and a few unfortunates having to suffer the heat of sitting in the mezzanine. But we hope they agree it was worth it. Philip Gross’s reading style allows every poem to breathe. It was like being in a contemporary art exhibition where each work was perfectly framed to allow the piece to take centre stage. And Gillian’s extraordinary lyrical work and Welsh lilt brought a lump to the throat. Jacqui has given me the OK to share that she had trouble not blubbing.

After the reading, as Philip Gross and Gillian Clarke signed copies of their collections, we sold copies of the magazine and chatted to poets and poetry lovers at our sales table.

A quick bite to eat, and a glass of red wine was followed by Martin Figura’s intimate narrative performance poem Whistle and then an early night.

We left Ledbury the next morning as the town was preparing for all-day street festivities. It was a party Ledbury. Thank you for having us.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. There were some fantastic readings, performances and events at Ledbury this year. (The Estonian poet and Billy Collins being just two I was lucky enough to get to.) Unfortunately, I was busy the second weekend so couldn’t make Philip Gross and Gillian Clarke. This blog just reinforces how gutted I am to have missed that, Penelope Shuttle and Magma.
    Hope I’ll get another chance soon.

  2. How joyous it sounds to have been, and far cheerier than the tedium of administration to keep The magma Show perpetually on the road.
    Thanks so much for all of that for all the remainder of the year.
    The way you present it, Roberta, reminds me most of the various music festivals I was able to attend in the late 60s, with the poets as rock band equivalents, when we would return to workaday lives with our batteries re-charged.
    Thanks for giving us a real sense of what we are missing when the Summer Festivals go by without our presence (and, depressingly. not missing us one jot!)

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