12 Nov 2009
Another highlight of my poetry year was back in June. Mel Scaffold, the South West co-ordinator for Apples and Snakes, booked me and fellow poets Adam Horowitz and Edson Burton as support to Brian Patten, for the North Devon Fringe at the Queen's Theatre, Barnstaple.
For a small Devon town, Barnstaple is well renowned for its thriving spoken-word scene, and this theatre is at the heart of it.
Brian Patten is a phenomenal performer. There is something inexplicable about seeing a true master at work - and not just because this poet has probably spent more years doing it than almost anyone else in the land - but it is as if his command of the audiences' total attention results from some brilliant, diamond-like quality in his own mind. We breathed in Brian's poems like prana, and they sustained us like that force - joy, sorrow, empathy, humour, and other aspects of our human condition, celebrated with tenderness and wit.
I always love socialising with poets after the gig; and together with some of the Apples and Snakes crew, enjoyed some of Barnstaples hostelry. At one point, as Brian regaled with tales of poets past he told us of some of the poetry conversations he once had with Robert Graves; who in turn, had spent time listening to the wisdoms of Thomas Hardy; who, likewise, had enjoyed conversations with Wordsworth.
I could feel the poetry in the air between us, crackling all the way back through time to the first starlight.