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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Etter

For love of lit fests

The Scallop by Maggi Hambling on Aldeburgh beach

As some of you already know, following my university's restructuring last summer, this academic year my teaching load was more than doubled, and the first five weeks of the new school year were miserable. I had preparation to do not only for my usual classes, but also a class I hadn't taught in years, as well as all the other admin that comes with the start of the year. Consequently, I had no time for my own reading and writing, and I hated it.

On the horizon was the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival the first weekend in November. I felt anxious that the three days away would mean a harder week afterward, catching up, and arranged with my husband Trevor that we'd just stay through the first event Sunday morning so we could make it back home by late Sunday afternoon.

I had, to my surprise and delight, a joyous weekend. I saw and talked to old friends and many acquaintances among the festival presenters and attendees, I had a great time presenting my workshop on prose poetry, place, and identity, and I attended some splendid readings and talks. Before leaving for home, Trev and I took a walk on Aldeburgh beach, and I felt thoroughly refreshed. I had not imagined that the festival would be so restorative for me, and I'm so grateful to the organisers of the festival and everyone involved for that weekend.

Given my experience at Aldeburgh, I'm looking forward to the six festivals I'm attending over the next five months, especially when it means a whole weekend immersed in writing, from conversations to workshops to readings. It all begins with the Cardiff Poetry Festival next weekend; I'm just there for the Saturday and particularly looking forward to catching up with poet Zoë Brigley and hearing Deryn Rees-Jones read from her latest book, Erato.

In March, there's Lyra, the Bristol poetry festival, for which Vik Shirley has organised an event devoted to prose poetry with me and Luke Kennard: Luke and I will read from our work, there will be a discussion about prose poetry, and it concludes with a prose poetry open mic! In April, there's the Cheltenham Poetry Festival, where I'll reprise my workshop on prose poetry, place, and selfhood, as well as give a reading, and in May I'll travel to Sheffield for the Sheaf Poetry Festival, where I'll be part of a reading focusing on the poetry of climate change. In early June I'll run a workshop for and read at the Devizes Arts Festival, and in late June, I'll return to the Flash Fiction Festival for the third time in the four years it's been running. I'll be doing a new seminar on prose poetry sequences and attending as many workshops as I can squeeze in!

Yay for lit fests and all the nourishment they give!

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