Monday 13 July 2009

The SoundEye Poetry Festival, Cork, 9-10 July 2009

I spent the weekend at the SoundEye poetry festival in Cork and, having had a marvelous time, thought I'd review a few of its events here. For those of you unfamiliar with the festival, it's devoted to alternative poetries without advocating a single school, as the founder Trevor Joyce's history explains, and it's been running since 1997. 

I flew in on Thursday afternoon, missing the first day and a half of events but making it to the evening event, the SoundEye Cabaret, including poets, performance art, music, etc. Early on, a couple of individual performances were disappointingly poor (fortunately I don't know the criminals by name), but the quality picked up as the programme progressed. My favourite performance would have to be a performance art/poetry piece by the young Sam Forsyte, formerly of Cork and now resident in Frankfurt. Apparently it was videotaped, so as soon as I have a clip or a link, I'll post it here. I also enjoyed the performance group Boiled String, whose three readers performed John Goodby's cut up of Dylan Thomas's work as well as a Lynette Roberts poem, with a double bassist plucking away in the background. 

On Friday afternoon Kevin Perryman (Ire/Ger), publisher, translator, and poet, Michael Smith (Ire), poet and translator, Swantje Lichtenstein (Ger), poet, and Stephen Rodefer (US), poet and translator, read. Perryman's work bordered on and at times transgressed into a sentimentality reminiscent of southwest American spiritual poetry, with such lines as "the rain won't talk to the mountain" and "never again to hold your hand." Michael Smith divided his time between his translations from Spanish, beginning with several excellent poems by Vallejo, and his own work. He seemed more confident with the translations, as when he read his own poems he sped up to the point of losing some of the nuanced interpretive tones that marked his earlier reading. 

Swantje Lichtenstein proved a revelation. Assuming I can trust the translations, Lichtenstein is a compelling and original poet; I dearly hope a book of her work in English will appear soon. Rodefer ended the set with brusque, vigorous poems that vividly mixed registers, moving deftly amid hackneyed expressions, abstractions, images, etc. with frequent semantic and sonic wordplay. 

That night at Meade's Bar there was a packed open mic, with Mairead Byrne as an ideal emcee. Delights included Kit Fryatt's passionate performance of the original and her translation of an Anglo Saxon work, "Wulf": "It was easy to sunder / what was never together"; and what was the name of the piece Peter Manson delivered so commandingly? 

(Tomorrow I'll continue with reviews of some of Saturday's events.)

1 comment:

  1. Kit Fryatt1:47 pm

    Peter read an extract from "The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedie" -- late 15th century Scots. Patricia Bawcutt's edition of Dunbar has the full text, and there's an online one here:

    Saw your lurgi posting on Facebook. Hope you're feeling better soon!