Poet Ross Donlon was awarded the Varuna Dorothy Hewett Flagship Fellowship for Poetry in 2009 and is one of the alumni lucky enough to win the Tyrone Guthrie draw this year. He’ll be taking up his residency there in 2012.
Earlier this year he sent us a “postcard” from the Wenlock Poetry Festival in Shropshire, England, the Universe etc.
“I read last weekend at what was the 2nd Wenlock Poetry Festival. Much Wenlock is a small town that goes back to Roman times not far from the Welsh border. Its poetry heritage is Houseman (‘A Shropshire Lad’) and Wildred Owen. Of course it’s picture postcard beautiful – Midsommer without the murders – with a vicar who doesn’t wear shoes either winter or summer, to be ‘nearer the earth’ – that sort of place – village green, ‘crown bowls’ (amazing) lots of Elizabethan style architecture.
How did I get here? Amazingly, by winning the Wenlock Festival Poetry Prize with a poem called ‘The Blue Dressing Gown’, which was part of the Arvon International Poetry Prize, judged by Carol Ann Duffy. It came with an invite to read the winning poem but this developed into featuring at the festival. I have CAL to thank for the cost of the airfare.
I had more than fifty at the reading and read for nearly an hour. (Yes, that’s right, folks, an hour) – it seemed to go off well. I brought a new book along, ‘The Blue Dressing Gown and other poems’ which will be launched when I return to Australia in September / October.
Reading for an hour is a bit like listening to a piece of music of that length but I guess it helps if it’s someone like Simon Armitage you’re listening to who is droll and very very clever, moving and surreally imaginative. Apart from anything else I enjoyed the play with language that I heard – all sorts of play and trickery and power and all understandable.
Most features read for an hour but there were variations, some with music, some with q and a. Some features for children that were also very popular. I also took part in what they call a ‘poetry circle’ with children, reading poems in a circle and chatting aboout poetry. Lovely way to get kids into it. I was also asked to mc the feature for Imtiaz Dharker, a lovely and wonderful Pakistani poet.
I am on a bit of a roll with my poetry, reading in London at Salisbury House with Katherine Gallagher, before I go to Norway to take up a 3 month residency there. I’ll spend some time in Tuscany as well before I fly home. I’ll be reading at La Mama on September 5th.
It’s been a great time with teriffic people – and of course inspiring for my own work.”