Blog Post From Kendal Poetry Festival

Below is the latest blog post from the directors of Kendal Poetry Festival (myself and Pauline Yarwood)  If you would like to receive regular updates from the Festival Team, please head over to our website, and sign up to our email list using the contact form provided
“Our programme went live just over a week ago, and we’ve been really pleased by the reaction and messages of support that we’ve received over the last week.  Sales are going really well.  The Poetry Business Workshop on Saturday morning has now sold out, but for those of you who didn’t manage to get a ticket for this workshop, there are still tickets left for Jane Routh’s ‘Tuning In’ discussion at 11am.  If you are a hardened poetry festival fan who likes going to everything before passing out from exhaustion, then have a look at our Weekend Passes, which will get you entry into all four Main Readings and the three Discussions.  There are only 15 of these Weekend Passes left, and we won’t be releasing any more once they have gone, so please book quickly if you would like to take advantage of this offer.

One thing that we believe makes our festival unique is the inclusion of young writers throughout the festival.  Members of Dove Cottage Young Poets meet once a fortnight to read and discuss poetry and write their own poetry with Kim Moore, one of the Kendal Poetry Festival Directors.  The group is funded by The Wordsworth Trust and this year they’ve already performed with Ian McMillan at the ‘Picture the Poet’ exhibition.

We believe they will bring a unique energy and enthusiasm to the festival, and at least one Dove Cottage Young Poet will be performing at every Main Reading.  If you’re wondering what young people write about, we can tell you their subjects range far and wide.  They’re writing about sexism and feminism, politics and relationships, family and the impact of the media.

When we were putting together the programme for the festival, we considered giving the Dove Cottage Young Poets a separate event but we decided we wanted them to feel part of the whole festival, and part of the wider writing community in Kendal.

This is one strand of the festival that we’re really looking forward to developing and growing over the next few years (assuming we’re crazy enough to do this all again!)  We asked Dove Cottage Young Poets to send in an application to be our Young Poet-in-Residence this year, and friend of the festival David Tait read through their poems and personal statements, and after much deliberation selected Hannah Hodgson, pictured at the top of this post.  Hannah will perform at the Launch of the Festival, and will also perform alongside Clare Shaw and Hilda Sheehan on Saturday afternoon.  She will also receive mentoring from Clare Shaw as part of her residency.

In the judges report David Tait said:

Hannah Hodgson’s poems here are sparsely furnished, small artefacts with odd yet particular details: alphabet spaghetti, a wish that the brain could talk, words slipping through a back gate, Alzheimer’s and what a ring should and shouldn’t mean. I like that the poems tackle big themes but remain small. Each word is weighted just so. There’s a lot of potential here.

We asked Hannah to send us a poem to feature on the blog and to write a couple of paragraphs talking about what inspired her to write the poem.  Here is Hannah’s poem, followed by her own words on the thought process behind the poem.

Hair – Hannah Hodgson

I am a farmer with a plough,
as strands fall like beads of perfume. I notice
it balling up on the brush, and take these
tumbleweeds to see the doctor.
They check my scalp, and I feel like a
weeded garden patch. Each morning I notice my
ponytail shrinking like a sun set, and wonder
how many of us there are. How many
stare at combs like exam results. How many
feel like autumn trees.

The inspiration for this poem is actually very personal. I have an ongoing chronic medical condition that means I have fluctuating health. Recently I had a dip. I noticed that my hair was falling out as I brushed it or as I styled it. Thankfully, this has stopped now, but it did get me thinking. No matter how much you say you aren’t bothered about how you look, you really do. It shocked me that the fact  my hair was falling out upset me more than the fact I was so unwell.

Hair is something that is so personal. You can show your personality so easily, cut it and shape it however you want to, curl it, straighten it, dye it. You can even challenge stereotypes with it. I am toying with the idea dying my hair with pink streaks for the summer. Everyone I have told has been shocked, even going as far as saying it was so unlike me. My hairdresser even refused to do it for me, saying she didn’t think I was ‘that kind’ of person. What does that even mean? My hair belongs to me, and your hair belongs to you.

Losing some hair really put into perspective the emotional impact of illness. People with cancer or alopecia go through so much physically, but also mentally. I think sometimes this part of illness – the personal part – is often ignored. Who would have thought that something as simple as brushing your hair would be a the most anxious part of your day? I never understood how it felt to have that part of your personality under threat until it happened to me. I wrote this poem to try and give people who suffer from hair loss a voice.


4 comments on “Blog Post From Kendal Poetry Festival

  1. Pleased to hear tickets are selling like hot cakes. I’ll be there in spirit!
    I’d like to say thank you to Hannah for sharing her personal experience through this powerful poem and to wish her well for her residency.

  2. Well done Hannah – a wonderful poem and impressive thinking. You are in such good hands now so onward and upwards!

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