Keats Festival 2013 opens

Today is the first full day of the Keats Festival, which is held at Keats House, Keats Grove, Hampstead. I spent yesterday evening at the launch event, listening to the poetry of Jay Bernard (Demon’s in Hell go on strike, in the most visceral meaty bit of poetry I’ve heard in a long time, very striking.) John Hegley (last year’s poet in residence – Keats fencing with sticks of celery, acrostics on the word LEAF from local school children – with audience participation; and a c&w song for Keats’ brother George) and Jo Shapcott (this year’s poet in residence – glorious bees inhabiting a life in extraordinary ways, and an incidental treatise on the use of the word Darkling).

Music of the Camden Young Singers led by Ros Savournin (very young, very together in all senses, brilliantly focused and bright sound. Great songs, particularly the song in praise of earthworms with bassoon accompaniment,  from a poem by Harry Martinson.  The only false note (for me) was Keith Waithe a Guianan flute player, who had a backing track instead of the rest of his band (Macusi). I’m not a fan of backing tracks, although he made some interesting noises when I could hear him.

The nibbles were excellent, the wine good and the company charming. A grand night out, well done all at Keats House.

Until Sunday week, Keats House will be full of writing, poetry, prose and performance, and talks and calligraphy and a bit of silliness here and there. You can join me for a writing workshop on Saturday morning, 10.30-1.30 and Arachne Press authors Bobbie Darbyshire and Tania Hershman, together with actors Will Everett (reading for me) and Kim Scopes (reading for Tom McKay) at 3pm the same day for readings of stories from Lovers’ Lies and our forthcoming anthology Weird Lies.

© Cherry Potts 2013

Old notebooks

On the shelf above my desk, and in the bottom left-hand drawer are old notebooks, some have a few pages left to use, others are full: with the detritus of writing.  Several friends and I have this ongoing thing of buying each other notebooks – writers can never have too many notebooks, although I do sometimes wonder – I am still looking for the one that has the start of what I think of as the ‘Alhambra story’.

Some notebooks have had pages ripped out – train times, phone numbers, dead ends – some are too precious to tear, and have pages scored through – tasks completed, stories transferred to the computer…

Sometimes the writing is from the back of the notebook, sometimes it is scrawled across a page diagonally. There is pencil, and felt tip and biro and proper ink, in black-blue-green-purple.

An example: Spiral bound, pink hardboard covers decorated with cartoon pigs (shh, it;s what’s inside that counts), lots of pages missing.

From the front: email addresses for publishers, a note to call the doctor, some ancient notes from work.

Some angry comments about kettle drums while I waited for someone who was late for a meeting, a doodled eye and design for a kelim, and the ambiguous now forgotten meaning of: collaboration/ child solider/ gangs/ invisibility. – must write that at some point, whatever it was.

A to do list, all crossed through.

More crossings out.

A different version of a story now complete.

Notes from workshops and seminars (multiple colours, more doodles).

Some calculations – something to do with computers because there are gigabytes mentioned, phone numbers for bookshops in Bristol and Bath.

Embryonic notes for converting a story to an opera, still to do.

From the back and consequently upside-down, in pencil,  the start of a story about a string trio hired for a corporate party. If I’d had any sense I wouldn’t have taken up the cello…

The keywords for a writing exercise: fat woman, dainty eating, heartbreak, secret, far to go.

Notes for a newsletter not yet done, thick black lines around in a futile attempt to attract my attention – sometimes it feels like the notebook is yelling at me, you’ve not done this yet!

and a plaintive question – where is the Alhambra story?

© Cherry Potts 2013

Chorus Festival – South Bank

vocal chords at chorusHere are is a video clip and a photo of Vocal Chords doing their thing at the festival,- we were by the Mandela statue on Sunday at 1.

We also sang in the opening event.







A and I went to two workshops – Sea Shanties on Saturday , and on Sunday Rounds & Catches with the magnificent Mary King.

The festival continues today with a last chance to catch Ms King as this is the last event she is involved in at the South Bank. Mary will be much missed!

Notes from a Permanent Exhibition

More (and the last for the time being, until I find time to go again) from my National Gallery series, but not so much about angels.

The National has two Filippino Lippi Virgin & Child paintings, one with St John as a child, 1480 the other with Saints Jerome and Dominic 1485: in each she looks washed out and exhausted, her head at exactly the same level of bowed, only her nose is slightly different, the nostrils flare more with St John, as though she is attempting to keep up appearances for the child-saint.

On the subject of children:

The Master of Osservanza Birth of the Virgin circa 1440

Aside from a newborn baby able to stand, over which we will draw a veil, in the left hand panel we have St Jerome being informed by a child that he has a daughter.  Nothing of the kind. If you look closely, Jerome is telling the boy he has a baby sister, and he is not at all pleased.

A veer away from the religious subjects to Cosimo Tura’s thoroughly modern Muse. This girl has attitude: her dress is incompletely laced, her legs wide, her fist on her thigh. her well-plucked eyebrows raised in contempt she sits on a throne bedecked (it is the only word) with golden dolphins with ruby eyes, a shell above her head. she wears flock and carries a branch of fruiting cherry tree. She looks like she’s escaped for a dungeons & dragons role play programme – a Lara Croft for the 15th Century.

overheard by an altarpiece:

Mother: Nearly done, sweetheart.

Just pre-adolescent daughter: How many more sections are there?

Mother: Sixty-six.

Stop counting and enjoy.

© Cherry Potts 2013