Tuesday, March 29, 2011

dlr Poetry Now : Pause. Breathe. Plunge.

Photo : Mischa Haller

Considering dlr Poetry Now essentially takes place over a long weekend, over time it has developed a unique shape and impact that nourishes the Irish poetry community, at home and abroad, throughout the year.

The festival has ended now. Over for the year. Or rather year-and-a-half, as the next festival won't take place until September 2012, when it will run in tandem with the newer Mountains to The Sea Book festival. This year's audiences were assured that dlr Poetry Now is to retain it's own identity alongside that festival, with its own curator. Whoever that should be, they will have the unenviable role of following Belinda McKeon, whose agile and progressive oversight has, for the last four years, honoured the heritage of the festival and the poetry itself, while fine-tuning to fresh, contemporary frequencies.

I'm still reeling. This year was a classic. The calibre of featured poets, precision of introductions, themes and organisation, and the vitality, generosity, insight and inclusivity of the audiences made for a fitting end to McKeon's tenure.

Whither from here? The move to Autumn is a significant change. There are aspects to the Spring timing of the festival that are hard to quantify - a vernal spur to tap into, or absorb, which may be underestimated. Perhaps autumnal energies will bring their own, unforeseeable fructuations. Let's hope so. Let's hope, also that the ground is well prepared over the longer than usual interim - that the incoming curator is selected promptly, clearly and efficiently resourced in order to establish continuity and maintain the quality of programming that a loyal audience will wish to support.

Some personal highlights;

- Anne Carson's keynote address (here in a slightly alternate version) was a meditation on translation, the smithing of meaning from silence, risk - the dreaming of new languages into being. Illustrated by the work of Francis Bacon and Tyree Guyton.

- The Friday afternoon fringe reading in Readers Bookshop. Little Old Man: "Is this a party?" Helena Nolan: "No, just poetry."

- The inspired teaming of Joseph Woods, Luis García Montero & Paul Farley - a three course serving of place, dreams and wit throughout.

- Don Paterson's workshop - acute generosity of craft from a remarkable artist, "Allow words to magnetize to the initial rhythms."

- The planned and accidental sychronicities - specific silences from Jaan Kaplinski & Paul Farley, the spirits of Czeslaw Milosz and Giordano Bruno

- Michael Longley's transmutation of the language of war into a new kind of citation, even new life.

- Seamus Heaney, in accepting his Irish Times Award... "the poem... read by two is autobiography... by six or seven, becomes culture."

- The audiences; poets, peers, friendships new and old.

Far too many other individual high points to recount in detail here - so I'll share some impressions from other attendees:

Thursday's Keynote address, by Kenneth

Saturday, by Michael, Kate and Lia. And Kate again!

An excellent overview of Saturday's Don Paterson workshop , again by Michael.

Grace Wells, winner of the Strong Award for a first collection, reviewed and interviewed a little while ago by Nuala  - who was there in spirit ;-).

Kenneth again, wrapping up with an overview.

Thanks to all. Here's to sharing inspiration, continuity and change in Dún Laoghaire again in eighteen months or so.