We had a wonderful day in Dartington earlier this month, when a number of Oversteps poets took part in another Oversteps Day at the Ways with Words Festival. Many thanks, once more, to Kay and Steve, who so kindly invite us to take part in the festival and give us a free hand in what we do.
Because of the re-organisation of rooms at Dartington, which resulted in Waterstones taking over the Upper Gatehouse, we were not able to use that lovely hall this year; but the Duke’s Room provided a space and atmosphere that was both elegant and cosy – especially as we read to capacity audiences.
In earlier years we have presented five sessions during the day, but for the sake of our poets and to spread the delights out evenly over the day, we decided to offer just four this year.
In the first event, ‘Hot off the Press’, four of our most recent poets read from their new collections: John Daniel (Skinning the Bull), Kathleen Kummer (Living below Sea Level), Jean Atkin (Not Lost Since Last Time) and Charles Bennett (Evenlode).
This was followed by ‘A toast to absent friends’, in which Oversteps poets who were at the festival introduced and read the poetry of some of the poets who were not able, for various reasons, to be with us. John Daniel read from both Elisabeth Rowe’s books (Thin Ice and Taking Shape), Oz Hardwick shared the poetry of A C Clarke (Messages of Change and Fr Meslier’s Confession), Susan Taylor read from W H Petty’s collection (But Someone Liked Them), Simon Wiliams charmed us with the work of Marie Marshall (I am not a fish) and Christopher North celebrated the poetry of Anne Born and Glen Phillips (Singing Granites). The Ways with Words artist, Jennifer Johnson, was sketching in the room during this session, producing a page of poet portraits.
After lunch our thoughts moved to holidays and travel, as we invited the audience onto our magic carpet. The pilots, Oz Hardwick (The Illuminated Dreamer), Alwyn Marriage (Touching Earth and Festo) and Christopher North (Explaining the Circumstances and Al Otro Lado del Aguilar) were supported by Jennie Osborne (How to be Naked) and Kathleen Kummer (Living below Sea Level), and while the poems ranged over many countries, we were eventually brought safely back to Britain.
Our final event of the day was a new departure for us, as it included several musical items. Charles Bennett (Evenlode) began the session by talking about the libretto he wrote for last year’s BBC Proms in a joint commission with Bob Chilcot; Susan Taylor (The Suspension of the Moon and A Small Wave for your Form), Jennie Osborne (How to be Naked) and Alwyn Marriage (Touching Earth and Festo) read music-inspired poems, and Simon Williams (Quirks and A Place Where Odd Animals Stand) and Zoë Marriage, with her songs about capoiera and about RD Congo, extended the range of poetry into that which is sung.
Both performers and audiences enjoyed the day, and we hope we can bring another programme to Dartington next year.
There were several other events by Oversteps poets at the festival as well. Christopher North facilitated a workshop, Susan Taylor took part in the amazing performance of ‘Skeleton Woman’, Simon Williams introduced a Tradewinds session and launched a new book, and Miriam Darlington spoke about her nature book, ‘Otter Country’.