Thursday, 4 December 2008

KARSLRUHE AFTERS




I'm still playing catch-up after the Karlsruhe Bücherschau, but I'll attempt to write a full report here. I'd a lovely time. I thought I'd be lonely without my partner - who always comes on my jaunts - but, as it happens, I loved having time alone to wander the streets, Christmas market and shops, and to loll in my hotel room. Anyhow, I had the company of some great Irish poets in the evenings, so that banished any chance of loneliness.

I met poet Ann Leahy, and her sister, at Dublin airport and we traveled together; a smooth journey. We were met at our hotel, the Kaiserhof, by Alan Hayes, publisher with Arlen House and Vice President of Clé the Irish Publishers' Association. We had the afternoon free and I wandered the magical Christmas Market, which was on in the square beside our hotel. There were cute wooden cabins selling Glühwein, iced gingerbread, wooden Xmas decorations, jewelery, snowglobes, candles etc. etc. It was all very sweet and Christmassy.

That evening we went to hear poets Celia de Fréine and Eva Bourke read at the Bücherschau which took place in a building across the road from our hotel (yes, we were spoilt).

Eva Bourke was born in Germany but has lived much of her life in Galway city and is an English language poet. She began with a moving poem about a photograph of her mother from 1914, when her mother was just 6 years old. She then read a poem which touches on the reasons why she writes and drew the conclusion that poets are readers and storytellers. I would agree that most writing is a direct growth from a writer's love of reading and books.
Much of Eva's work draws from nature and the sea, especially in Connemara, and she has a stunningly wide and vivid vocabulary. In a poem lamenting spring's non-arrival in the gloomy west, she says 'funerals creep like black snails' past her house, and 'I'm in pack-ice up to my neck'. In another poem about mist in June she described the mist as 'heavy sodden felt'.

Celia de Fréine is a bilingual poet with collections in both Irish and English. She read in both languages and, like Eva, is often inspired by the landscapes in Connemara. She began with a poem about a selkie (seal woman) which was also a metaphor for moving between languages. Celia spoke about the way Beckett wrote in French to achieve a sparsity of language in his work and that that is what she does when she writes in Irish.
She read from Fiacha Fola, her collection which deals with the experience of, and fall-out from, the Hepatitis C scandal. Also from Scarecrows at Newtonards (where the poet was born) with poems in the voice's of Shakespeare's women among much more.

We all - including poets Matthew Sweeney, Mary Noonan and Ann Leahy - went for dinner afterwards in the Kaiserhof's restaurant, and a jolly time was had of eating and drinking, and chat about German food, wine and Schnapps, Irish poetry, and all manner of things.

I had all the next day free, so I explored around the town and a huge shopping centre, Ettlinger Tor, which was utterly fab. It's so lovely to go into shops you've never heard of! And the Germans do Xmas decos and fripperies so well. I had a ball. Prices were keen, too, for clothes and food and drink of every kind.

That night was my reading with Donegal poet Matthew Sweeney and Tipp born Ann Leahy. Ann read first from her début collection The Woman Who Lived her Life Backwards and the audience of German, Irish and Americans were appreciative of her work. I didn't take notes that night, as I was sitting up on the stage, but Ann read several poignant poems about her childhood and family.
I read next and I have nothing to say about it really, except that I tried to read a mix of themes (place/fertilty/mourning/a token 'funny' one etc).
Matthew concluded our reading with some poems in German, from his collection Rosa Milch and English ones from Black Moon. His work often consists of hugely enjoyable and surreal parables, and he was highly entertaining. He also looked very fetching in a shirt with a pattern of hot air balloons! It's French, apparently, and very á la mode in an off-the-wall way. Very Matthew, indeed.

More lovely dinner that night (I had a fish called 'Zander' in German, 'pike-perch' in English on the menu) in the hotel and more chatting about art, language and poetry with retired German professor Eoin Bourke (husband of Eva) and Matthew S. In the morning I went to the Kunsthalle (art gallery). It was a most confusing place of closed doors and endless stairs, but I enjoyed the Hans Thoma pastorals and, mostly, as usual, the Expressionist madness in the Orangerie, which was a good trot from the main gallery. Home then to my own beloved boys and man, and to my sincerely beloved bed!

It was a wonderful, educational trip for me; I enjoyed using my bockety German and I learnt a lot and even started a few new poems. A success all round, I'd say.

15 comments:

PJ Nolan said...

I visited Germany for the first time a couple years back and was very pleasantly surprised by just how friendly and warm the people were (and how good the wine was - they told me they don't export the good stuff). mmmmmm, riesling. Combine all that with reading and listening - sounds like a smashing trip!

Women Rule Writer said...

It was great, PJ. And if you like red wine at all, I'm reliably informed (by Matthew Sweeney) that German Cabernet Sauvignon is fantastic. I'm not drinking at the mo, so it was juice and water for me.

BarbaraS said...

All good stuff, N. Met Matthew Sweeney last year briefly at Poetry Ireland when he was promoting Black Moon; he seems like a good guy and his poetry ain't bad either ;) He did the Guardian Poetry Workshop August a year ago and took one of mine for comment afterwards :)

Glad to hear that you really enjoyed the trip; Germany sounds like great fun.

Tania Hershman said...

It all sounds wonderful, what a time you have had, in many countries, with many fellow poets and writers, and all with the Irish theme, taking the wonders of Irish literature abroad. I love it, I am so glad for you that you get to do these wondrous things, am living it vicariously through you - would that the Israeli Foreign Ministry would send me anywhere! I would love to go back to Berlin, was so surprised about how wonderful the city was two years ago, really exciting. You are my inspiration :)

Women Rule Writer said...

Tania, you are making me teary eyed!
I sincerely hope that the Israeli Foreign Ministry send you somewhere! There's always the 2009 Frank O'Connor Fest!

Totalfeckineejit said...

That sounds like a magical trip altogether and you are so modest ye hardly mentioned your reading at all,let alone the two lovely poems in the latest SHOp.Thanks for visiting me blog by the way, I think three people have looked at it now so it's really flyin' :)

Women Rule Writer said...

Hiya Total, You're crediting me with modesty but TBH I find it hard to report on my own stuff. What would I say? "Read brilliantly/nervously/with a sick stomach" (??!!). Nah, it's impossible...
I'll put a link to your blog on mine, if that'll help the visitors!

Totalfeckineejit said...

Yip, I see wot you mean.To be honest though I'd give it a lash,but then that's why I'm a gauche TFE.A link to my blog from yours would be greatly appreciated and deadly cool. Mucho gracias ,Peadar. Oh, and by the by I remember a poem of yours to do with Sylvia Plath that I really liked and I was wonderin'if any of it referred to Ted?(ie.who is there to trust with the black of my heart, when
some trample, some steal what’s mine for their own?)
If not obsessed by the pair of them I have to admit to being totally enthralled and I'd to know other people's insight, particularly if they happen to be a gifted poet like yerself.

Women Rule Writer said...

Hi TFE. Actually, I just nicked Sylvia's stunning 1st line & wrote about myself, while mindful of SP's black moods. I may have been a bit low at the time...

I'm fascinated by them too. I bought the Sylvia film this year but it was disappointing. I also read their (excellent) poetry (& The Bell Jar) and I will read a bio or two anon, when I have time.

It's hard to know what to think about the truth of their lives. Only they knew what really went on and I feel a bit...morbid... for being so interested.

Totalfeckineejit said...

That's interesting about the poem-thanks, and could I recommend 'Bitter flame' by Anne Stevenson and 'The life of a poet' by Elaine Feinstein? I feel a bit voyeuristic trawling through Ted's letters at the moment but managed to resist thumbing throught to the one's to Sylvia which when I did read made me a little uncomfortable, but not as much as the one's to sylvias mother after her death.I connected more through Ted's poetry (although lately I find myself re-evaluating some of it) andI haven't read better than 'Birthday letters'But the initial connection was made years ago long before I started writing poetry when I was in Heptonstall at Sylvias grave and Collette(my wife)had to explain who she was.There's something about that whole place that has stayed with me (not in a haunting creepy way)and then I read her poetry that led me on to Ted.I've just got a biography on Assia Wevill which may shed some light but for me apart from being an inspiration the whole saga remains an unfathomable enigma and that's not such a bad thing.

Women Rule Writer said...

All good stuff, Total.I saw that Assia bio (v tempting) but I need to get through Ted and S's first at some point. You know, you should blog about all this.
Thanks for the recommendations. My local library has a Plath bio but it seems really academic and turgid. I need bios to be readable. I'm reading a brill Woolf one at the mo: 'Mrs Woolf and the Servants'.

Totalfeckineejit said...

The Plath one is by a poet(Anne Stevenson)whom I'd not come across before ,maybe it's because she is a poet that it reads so well.I borrowed it from the library a few years ago but would like to buy it.I've almost no memory for things, even a Goldfish would have greater powers of retention, but the gist of the inscription from the gravestone and the front of the book, remains.It's something along the lines of 'Even amid the fiercest flames the Golden Lotus can still be planted'I thought that was great. I looked it up but have forgotten where and who it came from.I like literary biographies Might try that Woolf one ,to look at any similarities to Sylvia.

Women Rule Writer said...

The Woolf one I'm reading is specifically about her relationships with her servants (it would turn you off her, if you liked her before). Hermione Lee's is a more all-round bio.

Totalfeckineejit said...

I was searching through some old photos and out fell one of S.P's grave-the actual inscription is 'Even amidst fierce flames the golden lotus can be planted' so I was close but no cigar!

Women Rule Writer said...

Thanks for that, Total. Are the fierce flames her 'down' times, I wonder?