Monday, 27 June 2005

Shaw, Todd Shaw

I am back from the silver anniversary of the Annual Writers Conference, in Winchester, the brainchild of Barbara Large. From humbler beginnings, it has developed into a major gathering of (mainly commercial) writers, from thriller and romance novelists, to top literary agents, non-fiction types, and even some poets. She is to be congratulated on a marvelous occasion.

I was honoured to be at the head table for the dinner on Saturday evening, and was asked to read a few poems to the gathering, which I did. I failed to use the mic to my advantage - I have a tendency to want to swallow it. Still, I think I mostly got the poems across to the somewhat bemused gathering. One of the poems I read is the "American Found Poem" also at this site. One of my dinner companions was a noted geneticist who confessed to having a secret passion for raunchy limericks. He recited some of them to me over our salad.

One of the best parts of the day - for me - was the so-called "One-to-Ones" - these take place, like speed dating, at tables in a large room. Writers and agents sit at these small card tables and await - at fifteen minute intervals - the latest aspiring writer to sidle up, sit down, and show you their work. It wasn't as awkward a procedure as it at first promised to be, and, despite or because of the very loud buzzing in the room, there was a palpable sense of occasion.

Some of the poets I saw were quite good. Several were rather too open about their disappointment at not having U.A. Fanthorpe - I was sitting in for her. One woman kept repeating, at regular intervals you just aren't Ursula and there was nothing I could do. There's a poem or at least a title of a band in that, maybe.

Perhaps the low point was the fact that the little flag at my table, with my name on it, signaling how to come and find me, was initially inscribed Todd Shaw. From such ignominy is great poetry made.
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