Monday, July 14, 2008

Rose Flint writes about nature - all nature, the vastness of elemental powers and the small details: a spider, a hare's ears in the corn, jasmine pollen. Her poems are luminous and enamelled with jewel-like clarity; intensely personal evocations of the world we inhabit, or should inhabit. 'The Field', which won this year's Cardiff International Poetry Competition, is a wish-list the Earth Goddess Gaia herself might have conjured. Rose's new collection 'Mother of Pearl' had its launch on the final Friday of Frome Festival at La Strada. Rose, looking stunning in midnight indigo, illuminated the room with moonlit images and John Slater serenaded the event on accordion.

From owlsong to Cabaret Sans Frontières... a quintessentially Frome event: local talent with a decidedly leftfield edge. I'm privileged to be the Philosopher Provocateur, pontificating with risqué relish from behind a frame provided by Folies Bergere heavenlies Clare and Nicky. And also knitting an independent man... who materialised a tad too independent and ran off. A bizarre and wonderful night.

Alison Clink's short story contest 'Winner's lunch' always holds special interest for writers, as the senior judges traditionally share tips for success in their speeches. Steve Voake, who picked Bath writer Magnus Nelson for 2 of the top prizes in the 'local writers' category, urged resilience in those dark-night-of-the-soul times: "Don’t think you’re finding it hard because you’re bad – it really is hard. Just have faith." Katie Fforde ended her 'top ten' with the reminder "You must give yourself permission to write, and to write badly! We learn our craft by doing it. Keep writing.”
I'm reminded of Samuel Beckett's famously laconic advice: "Try. Fail. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
Overall winner was Colin Smith with his story '1963, the winter Dad left home.'

Scriptwriter Matthew Graham urges writers to keep the faith too; the BBC initially rejected ‘Life on Mars’ as "a bit too silly." His talk is full of practical information, like pre-planning stories on a board to get the structure right - a big board, so you can pace around it. Matthew paces around quite a bit himself, mixing in realistic encouragement with ideas for exercises and helpful contacts. Start with a premise that can be summed up in a few words, he says, and today's story is about wannerbe writers discovering "There’s so much stuff you don’t know, and you don’t know you don’t know it till someone tells you.”

Yes, writing's hard and marketing even harder, but turkeys still slip through. One of the 'happenings' of Festival Fringe was a Richard Cameron play at Rook Lane Chapel. 'Can't Stand Up For Falling Down' took on serious issues: domestic violence, suicide, bullying, mental disability, one-parent families, bereavement, broken homes, neglected children, alcoholism... perhaps rather too many issues for a one-hour play. What with all this and a stereotypical Northern time-warp as setting, the cast of this Troupers production did pretty well with this mawkish murder story.

And like a big fat tiramisu dessert, the last drops of Frome Festival have finally been licked, leaving us all elated but sated. You can listen to highlights of Frome FM on archive - Laurie's wonderful 'Eclectic' show includes contemporary poetry; there's Mike's writers' roundups, and Rosie Jackson reads her new story on Wednesday's Afternoon Magazine.
And for no connective reason but just because I really like them, here's some words by Spanish poet Antonio Machado, translated for me by Emily:
"Traveller, there are your footprints,
The path, and nothing more.
Traveller, there is no path,
You make the path as you go."

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