This year Guillemot Press was invited to curate a day at the Bodmin Moor Poetry Festival. If you don’t know it already, BMPF is a little gem of a festival. It’s intimate, inclusive and always surprising, set out on Bodmin Moor at Sterts Theatre, near Upton Cross in Cornwall.
For us, it was an opportunity to invite some of our favourite poets and artists and we put together a list of established poets that included Thomas A Clark, Vahni Capildeo, Holly Pester, Luke Kennard and Holly Corfield Carr, as well as some excellent newer voices who are very quickly establishing themselves, including Elisabeth Sennitt Clough, Sarah Cave, Aaron Kent and Amy McCauley. Amy’s performance of Oedipa was staggering. We had the privilege of publishing Amy’s debut in May this year and to see it brought to life in this incredible, visceral way was so exciting. Amy will be giving Oedipa a Manchester launch on July 2nd. Do try to see her if you can.
But this was a day with so many highlights. Luke Kennard and Holly Pester were hilarious and intoxicating. Vahni Capildeo’s reading was beautiful, with poetry from recent collection Seas and Trees and from her newly-announced Forward shortlisted collection Venus as a Bear. Then there was Thomas A Clark, reading from his latest collection wing of the ptarmigan. The pace, the quiet and the meditative repetition of his reading was spellbinding. Tom had an exhibition in the theatre’s gallery, too, with fragments of landscape made from jigsaw pieces, a t-shirt printed with the words ‘and once I was a dragonfly for an afternoon’, and a series of cards and tiny publications. It was a fascinating use of a small space.
Then we had a panel of our wonderful illustrators, featuring presentations and conversation with Emily Juniper, Rose Ferraby, Phyllida Bluemel and Lucy Kerr. These are some of the artists we’ve been working with recently to produce illustrated poetry books of work by Amy McCauley, Melanie Challenger, Martyn Crucefix and Nic Stringer. Lots of themes and ways of approaching texts were shared among the artists, in spite of their styles and practices seeming so different. Emily’s sense of ‘dressing’ the text when she spoke of her Medea and her work on McCauley’s Oedipa was fascinating, as was Rose’s textures and geography, Lucy’s ambiguity and Phyllida’s sense of the many lives of the poem.
The day ended well into the night, across the road at the Caradon Inn. Memory is hazy, but the Guns N Roses karaoke and a drunken man reciting Macbeth at Holly Pester in the beer garden as a lightning storm approached were special highlights.
We were allowed to run the bookshop for the weekend, which was a greatopportunity to present a range of books by some of our favourite small presses, such as Clinic and Moschatel, as well as individual titles from further great small poetry publishers, like Sad Press, Periplum and zarf, and of course some of the bigger hitters, like Carcanet, Faber, Penned in the Margins, Seren and Shearsman.
Throughout the weekend we were helped out by a team of students from Falmouth University who deserve mention. The weekend wouldn’t have worked anywhere near as well without Adriana Ciontea, Rhianna Gibbs, Jamie Andrews, Izzy Nieto, Gavin Hedaux and Ceire Warren, while Charlotte Rayment and Seren Livie wrote brilliantly for the festival throughout the build up and Kevin Woodley developed and managed the Bodmin Moor Poetry Festival website. Thanks are owed to them all.
And this was only the day we curated. There was so much great stuff either side of our Saturday, all put together by David Woolley and Ann Gray. A regular feature of the festival is Rachael Allen’s ‘Poetry Cabaret’, for which Rachael brings down a host of poets for an informal series of short readings on the opening night. This year Rachael brought Zaffar Kunial, Daisy Lafarge and Calum Gardner. Elsewhere over the weekend were performances by Liz Berry, Mark Ford, Eilean Ni Chuilleanain and lots, lots more.
Now we’ve had time to recover we’re already thinking about next year…
(Photos courtesy of Francesca Sophia)