I wrote my first poem in 24 years at CoastWord, in Claire Askew’s ‘Introduction to Poetry’ workshop and I think it is a pretty good start. I almost didn’t make it along, I signed up to the workshop on a bit of a whim, but my childcare fell through when my sister was stranded in St Louis, and the doubts about my poetry writing talents sown by my second year English teacher were still enough that I was quite prepared to miss out. Until the lovely Lynn, my fellow writing mum and one of two possible future inlaws (if you believe my 5 year old daughter) stepped in and added another layer of madness to her already hectic day.
My Coastword 2016 could not have had a better start, and Claire’s workshop had the added advantage of diverting my fretting mind from obsessively running over my contribution with the writing mums and DunbarSings to the Coorie In that evening. My biggest challenge as both a choir member and writing mum was going from the focused exuberance of singing Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 straight into reading about one of my own 9 to 5 experiences, without sounding too giddy and excitable.
Our collaboration was nestled in the middle of fabulous performances from Firefly Fortyfive, Davie Robertson, Kirsty Law, and Kim Edgar. My head was in a spin by the end of the evening. I knew what to expect from the others, but I had not heard Kim Edgar’s music before. I don’t know how I have missed her music up until now. What a treat - gorgeous vocals and accompaniment beautifully weaving stories. One of best things about Coastword is taking time to get to know the writing and the music I have heard over the weekend – reading the poetry pamphlets or novels, or listening to the music during the days that follow. It is a like my favourite part of Christmas day: going to bed in new jammies, some chocolate and a small pile of new books.
My busy Friday meant no time to worry about embarrassing myself in front of Janice Galloway at her workshop the next morning. I worry about striking up conversation with people I admire, my people pleasing instincts often leave me unable to say anything other than the most inane of inanities. So I managed to write about three sentences in her entertaining and inspiring workshop. They were good sentences though, definitely not boring, and perhaps the start of something interesting. And then, Ms Galloway had to help hold my bike when I hoisted up my tights on the way to the Dunmuir Hotel. So that was the ice broken, and my admiration for her as a writer has entered poorly concealed fan-girl status because she is no clever and funny and encouraging. No wonder I was ready to sit still for a few minutes and bask in the sublime music of Richard Klein, Karen Dietz and Nick Wilding. I wanted to close my eyes and just listen although didn’t because I was afraid people might think I had fallen asleep, but that hour was more uplifting and soothing than I have ever found a visit to a spa. The world needs that music to be recorded – Kickstarter, anyone?
There was more Janice Galloway in store for us later that afternoon, talking about her work in conversation with Emma Moller, and another hour flew by far too quickly. My wee head was absolutely full of literary goodness by this point. But, like Christmas, there is always room for a desert, and Saturday’s trifle was the rich and delicious Words to the Beat. So much that was yummy packed into a few short hours! Two years ago when Liz Lochhead came to the first CoastWord festival, I was impressed and proud that such a literary icon was coming to our wee town. This year, Words to the Beat was full of CoastWord favourites – musicians Monica Queen and Johnny Smillie and Hailey Beavis; neu reekie’s Michael Pedersen, CoastWord (and BBC Scotland) writer in residence 2015 Rachel McCrum, and Withered Hand and Liz Lochhead. They keep coming back - because CoastWord is special.
For me, Sunday was a day for kicking about with my children, barbecuing with friends I hadn’t seen since about the time I wrote that last poem in the mid-nineties, and conserving energy for one last outing. An evening of film and music with Roxanna Vilk and GOL. And wow, what a night! It may have been exhaustion, but hearing CoastWord’s creative director, writer (and my much loved pal), Hannah Lavery open the evening reading her powerful and emotive poem ‘Radio Silence’ had me in tears, which didn’t let up until the dancing started. Roxanna’s powerful short films, and Mariem Omari’s beautifully delivered readings from the Qisetna (talking Syria) blog, moved and challenged me more than I had expected. And made me hungry. When the chairs were pushed back and Roxanna’s band GOL began to play, we were all ready to dance. I don’t think I have ever seen a dance floor fill so quickly – a sight that will keep me smiling well into June.
So CoastWord is over for another year. A week on I am still remembering new things from the weekend. And I am going to dig out that poem again and see if it may just be the start of something.