Poetry, Pigs and ‘Premonitions’

Last night I was in Lichfield Cathedral to hear National Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and the National Poet of Wales, Gillian Clarke, reading some of their poetry as part of the Lichfield Festival .

I’ve never read any of Gillian Clarke’s poetry and it was impressive (as too was the way she read, in a beautiful clear, crisp voice. It does make a big difference! As much as I love Carol Ann, she does mumble a little bit..!)

It was a lovely event, not least, because a young laureate for Lichfield was awarded her prize and read her poem (with such pride – it brought a lump to my throat!) and Carol Ann Duffy launched her ‘National Poems for Cathedrals’ project, for which she’s going to write a poem for every Cathedral city in England. According to the Festival website, “the National poets of Wales and Scotland, Gillian Clarke and Liz Lochhead, have agreed to join the project, giving it the potential to include every cathedral on the British mainland.” Read more about it here.

I also struggled not to blub when the Poet Laureate read her beautiful poem ‘Premonitions’, about her mother, in which she imagines time going backwards, from the moment of her mother’s death. I’ve heard her read that poem before and it is quite beautiful.

That’s the kind of poetry that I expect from Carol Ann Duffy. She read a couple of others, earlier on in the evening, which niggled at me slightly, as they seemed to be aimed quite directly at ‘Middle England’ – and they didn’t really seem like her kind of poems. One was about not wanting to lose the county names from addresses (apparently the Post Office is phasing them out) and the other,’John Barleycorn’, was a lament for and tribute to, the Great British pub (which was a clever idea but mostly consisted of a long list of pub names!).

But I suppose, even the Poet Laureate has to pander to her audience..!

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the reference to ‘pigs’ in the title… there are painted pigs dotted all over Lichfield (there’s even a ‘Pig Trail’). Here’s Trevor, the Festival Pig….

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8 Responses to Poetry, Pigs and ‘Premonitions’

  1. Lunar Hine says:

    Ah, thank you. I read ‘Premonitions’ when it was in The Guardian. Cried then. Cried again now. This is why I try not to write poetry; I just can’t imagine being that good. But poems seep out of me anyway…

    • I’m glad it’s not just me who cries at (some) poetry! Another one that really gets to me – and it’s a similar theme to ‘Premonitions’ – is Brian Patten’s poem ‘The Armada’. But poetry should make you feel something. And if it touches you enough to make you cry, then I think the poet’s done a good job!

  2. Julia says:

    Thursday I read all your useful posts about letter writing for magazines, and yesterday in our writing club, I see you were the letter of the week in Chat magazine!
    We always swap magazines in our meetings – saves money.
    Julia

    • Julia, yes, I’m finally starting to ‘repeat the rewards’ of some of my letters to magazines! I haven’t seen my letter in CHAT but I got a nice cheque for £25 on Friday, which was a nice surprise! I also – later the same day – found out I’ve got the star letter in another magazine but I’ll put the details of that in my next ‘Magazine Madness’ post! Swapping magazines sounds like a great idea to me!

      • Julia says:

        Thursday I read all your useful posts about letter writing for magazines, and yesterday in our writing club, I see you were the letter of the week in Chat magazine!
        We always swap magazines in our meetings – saves money.
        Julia

        If you want the magazine I can put it in the post to you. I like to keep every magazine I’m in!
        Congrats on your Write Invite win today. I voted for your story, very well written.
        I don’t often get the chance to enter Write Invite these days.
        I came 6th in their first literary league, but this year I’m ranked at 111! having only entered once this year!

      • Thanks Julia – I have emailed you about sending me the letter in CHAT – that’s very kind. And thanks for your comments about my Write invite win. That’s only the second time I’ve ever won, but it’s a nice feeling!

  3. Heather says:

    Carol Ann Duffy was the first poet I ever heard read live (yes, she does mumble a bit!) and I realised what a difference it makes to just reading from a book. Poetry really comes alive when it is spoken. I also like Gillian Clarke’s poetry. My son studied some of her poems at secondary school – I still have his poetry anthology book for GCSE English Lit! Anyway it sounds like you have a good time at the poety readings.

  4. Alice says:

    I saw Carol Ann Duffy read with Gillian Clarke and Liz Lochhead and Imtiaz Dharker last month at a venue called The King’s Place in London. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. Carol Ann read some of the poems from her new book The Bees. I think I’ll always reminisce that her early work like Valentine was the best, but she really is a wonderful poet. I’m so glad she is Poet Laureate 🙂

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