A big thanks from me and Lyndon Davies to all those who performed and turned up to the 2nd Hay-on-Wye Poetry Jamboree, 3-5th June.
Like last year, the good weather had a lot to do with the laid-back spirit and high turnout, but we like to think the varied programme played its part too. Those of you lucky enough to have caught it will have witnessed good sets from Rob Minhinnick and the legendary Peter Meilleur (Childe Roland) to kick things off, the latter ably supported by Sophie McKeand in his rendition of Ham & Jam and A Pearl (brilliantly manic rewritings of Hamlet Act 2 Scene 2 recently published by Hafan Press). Thereafter, things seemed to roll forward in a pretty glitch-free way, with the Friday afternoon session packed with good things from readings from Anthony Mellors (whose set included the immortal ‘Farley’s Rusks’ note from The Gordon Brown Sonnets), Keri Finlayson, and Scott Thurston (reading from Rooms and Internal Rhyme respectively – there were Shearsman-free zones in the Jam, but this wasn’t one of them). After the obligatory improving lecture (me, with ‘Undispellable lost dream’: Welsh modernist and avant-garde poetry’), we moved into top gear with a rousing evening double act of Messrs Halsey and Monk, Alan memorably reprising his time in Hay with the ‘Letters of Change & Exchange’ among others, and Geraldine planting her head firmly in the clouds with a wonderful rendition of the recently reissued Sky Scrapers.
As usual, the post-Jam session wind-downs took place in the garden of Church House in Talgarth, with food brought in – thanks to Chris and Debbie for premises and for the cooking – and plenty of yattering and drinking in the shade of David Greenslade’s yurt (and Georgetta’s devastating Romanian poitin), warming ourselves around a fire fed by slim Faber and Picador volumes, ho ho, as last year’s owl returned to whoo-whoo through the dusk from the trees bordering the stream at the bottom of the garden.
Saturday lived up to most of its promise, with a late morning set from Phil Maillard, Ric Hool and Richard Glyn, reading from his new book Sad Giraffe Café. Despite the news that Randolph Healy had crocked his back and was unable to make it, the rest of the international contingent, in the shape of Claudia Azzola, poet and editor of Traduzionetradizione, and the Italo-Franco-Belgian-Luxembourgeois Jean Portante, were present. Claudia had read on Friday afternoon, translated by Lyndon Davies, and Jean, translated by Zoe Skoulding, read in one of the Jam’s daytime highlights, the Saturday Poetry Wales session, which included contributions from Tilla Brading, Cris Paul, and Carol Watts. Ian Davidson, the Bangor poet, read some of his cool and thoughtful meditations on language, landscape and politics in a set that tempered the heat outside. The afternoon also featured the launch of the latest issue of Angel Exhaust, the long-awaited # 21 Each Aeon Free After the First One – The Welsh Underground special issue, with Andrew Duncan detailing the labours that have gone into the making of this epochal volume, such as the unearthing forgotten masters like Paul Evans and Philip Jenkins, and the commissioning of new material by the legendary-incendiary Aberystwyth trio of However Introduced to the Soles, Niall Quinn, Nick Macias and Nic Laight. By popular request (OK, organisers perogative) Samantha Wynn-Rhydderch was also back after her impressive reading the year before for a longer slot.
2010 was the year the Jam went multi-media. On Friday there had been a screening in the chapel next door of a slew of shorts organized by John, of Swansea’s Elysium Gallery; on Saturday it hosted the Quantum Brother’s nouvelle-vague-meets-Burroughs-meets-disco-and-dub Beginner’s Guide to Radial City. The Brothers’ thrillingly dystopian vision was followed by the materialization in the vestry of the performance artist Kath Ashill, clad in a silver dress, perched beside a table of cakes which, one by one, as we parted the curtains and entered, we were invited to feed her, by hand. (This gloriously sticky ill-by-mouth scenario would later require an antidote of vinegar-drenched chips as Kath lay outside recovering, but no matter; we’d all taken to heart the point she was making about intimacy and consumerism. Maybe.) All of which was a prelude to the culmination of the Jam in two mighty readings, by Elisabeth Bletsoe and Caroline Bergvall. After nuggets from Pharmocopoeia, Elisabeth blasted us with three of the Hardy heroines ventriloquised and earthed in her Landscape from a Dream, in a set so electrifying that at one point a nearby kettle started switching itself on and off. And, after the blue fire and thunder, Caroline’s rendition in cod Middle English of her modern versionings of The Canterbury Tales – The Wife of Bath lewd, thonged and hot to trot was just one of her personae – had us gasping at verbal dexterity that would have left Danny Kaye tongue-twisted. A suitably wry, witty, sensual, comic-cosmic performance to close the poetic proceedings.
After which it was time for the band – Chris Twigg and Chicken of the Woods (think a Bromsgrove bluegrass Tristan Tzara accompanied mandolin and double bass) – and Geraldine kicking away the furniture and getting everyone (OK, the girls anyway) for a Bacchantic fling, before departing to a final meal and drink back at Church House, Lyndon and me swearing we would never do it again / just had to do it again.
Photos are on the Jam website, and mine and Lyndon’s Facebook pages. Anyone who was there who wants to give us feedback, comments, curses, blessings, please do. Any photos, too, please share them with us.
A last thank-you to our sponsors – Academi, Susie W. for organising the 24-hour poetry marathon fundraiser, CREW (the Centre for Research into English Literature and Language in Wales, Swansea University), Chris Ozzard and his tremenjous Blast House support gig. And to all those who helped, too many names missed out here, but Geoff whose Oriel Gallery we used, Steve the Soundman, Penny Hallas for the magnificent art work adorning the walls, and the rest of you - you know who you are.