I know I’m not supposed to have favourites, but as I shuffled into the Arts Centre for the penultimate time over the literary festival weekend – Ana Sampson and her fierce collection of women’s poetry was for me a truly special moment amongst this year’s lineup.
The idea to put ‘She is Fierce’ together began one day when Ana was in the market for a poetry anthology of collected works by female poets across history (a fairly simple request, one would imagine)… it was at this point that she realised there wasn’t one.
All she found were either very specific and academic niches of women poets collected or poetry anthologies of predominantly male writers (also known as ‘pretty much any poetry anthology’).
“So, I decided to fix it,” the exuberant Ana chirps.
And it’s safe to say, I’m very glad she did.
Embarking on her mission to put the anthology together before someone else cottoned onto the idea, Ana read thousands of poems by women – rediscovering canonical greats as well as uncovering hidden gems in the process.
This reassertion of women’s names, lives and works throughout a history that didn’t always allow for a tradition of female poetry to flourish in the same way as their male counterparts certainly feels fierce to say the least.
Not only was Ana equally as captivating as her anthology, but the event was so elegantly curated. Masterful interviewing from Richard Pedley and poignant, careful readings of some poems in the anthology from Linda Rose Parkes, Alex Alderton, Juliette Hart and Sufia Shanowaz punctuated the afternoon.
Hearing these words in women’s voices, beautifully but casually delivered from seats in the auditorium made me all the more impatient to curl up with the anthology and a cup of tea to discover all the fierceness I never knew I was missing out on.
Alas, this is my last blogpost from the festival. If, like me, you’re reclining on your sofa (or chaise longue – I don’t judge) overwhelmed with all the wondrous writers and stories we’ve encountered over the last few days then spare a thought (or 12) for the people who made it all possible.
In no particular order that’s… the festival committee, authors, sponsors, venues, interviewers, volunteers, booksellers, technical crews, box office teams, bar staff and, of course, you, the audience for making it a most splendid fifth Festival of Words indeed.
Thank you all from the bottom of my heart and I already cannot wait for next year.
WORDS: MARTHA MACDONALD
PICTURES: PETER MOURANT AND MARTHA MACDONALD