There were still grubby snowdrifts by the side of the road last week when I went up to Cumbria for the annual Words by the Water literary festival at Keswick.
I enjoyed meeting up with friends old and new and having the opportunity to hear some brilliant speakers.
Some highlights included Jenny Uglow on Edward Lear (a relative of the wife of my father's half-brother!) and the naturalist John Lister-Kaye not on the lives of wild creatures but on his own life. The talk by popular linguist David Crystal was full. His topic was the history and sociology of pronunciation and as usual he entertained and enlightened us. My favourite talk was by the gently-spoken Christopher Nicholson and was on the elusive summer snows of Scotland's mountains.
The Poetry Breakfast was a sell-out and all the croissants were eaten. It's a strange phenomenon that open mics and workshops always seem to have a subtext or a hidden agenda - in this case it was elegies. I resisted the temptation to read a poem about my mother (being a switherer I had brought a handful of poems to choose from). Instead I read a poem about the 'lollipop coloured gifts' we find on the shore - the plastic that gets washed up everywhere. Not exactly a sea elegy but ...
Elsewhere there were few poetry sessions - the Write to be Counted anthology reading, William Sieghart (founder of the Forward prizes for poetry) talking about prescribing poems, and Adam Feinstein comparing translations of the Chilean Pablo Neruda's poetry before the showing of the remarkable and unnerving film Neruda (2016). Blake Morrison, an accomplished writer of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, talked about his new novel The Executor which includes poetry written as if by one of the characters.
Adam Feinstein judged the biennial *Mirehouse Poetry Prize. Congratulations to Alison Carter for her winning poem 'Topiary'.
As I packed up the hire car yesterday morning snowflakes were falling again.
*The winning poem and the commended poems are up on the Mirehouse website www.mirehouse.co.uk (go to The House and then click on Poetry Prize and 2018 Poetry Prize Winners).