The Nottingham Festival of Literature began on 8th November and I was very excited to attend the first reading event of the festival. Taking place at Lakeside Arts this event featured readings from poet Michael Symmons Roberts and author Alison Moore. Presented in partnership with Nottingham Lakeside Arts and the School of English at the University of Nottingham, the evening was introduced by Matthew Welton, a professor in creative writing at the University.
Alison Moore was the first to take to the stage discussing her latest novel, Death and the Seaside which was published in August by Salt. It was fascinating to hear about how the idea of Death and the Seaside came about and the research process involved. She discussed the role of the seaside and its landscape in literature and how it represents various emotions, how there can be a link between seaside and death with the sea becoming symbolic of change and a shift from one form to another. She also talked about some of the themes in the novel and the journey of its protagonist, Bonnie Falls, before reading one of the earlier chapters in which Bonnie’s world begins to form. As a fan of Alison’s work I always enjoy listening to her readings and this was no exception. Having read and enjoyed Death and the Seaside it was great to listen to Bonnie’s story once more.
On the conclusion of Alison’s reading it was the turn of Michael Symmons Roberts who read a selection of poems from his various works. This was something I was looking forward to hearing as I very rarely read poetry so attending a poetry reading was a new experience for me. He begun by reading a poem titled ‘Pelt’ followed by ‘Jairus’ which was inspired by a story from the bible about the healing of Jairus’ daughter. It was interesting to hear about where the inspiration for each of these poems came from. Among these poems was one titled ‘The Frequency’ which came about as a result of Michael’s obsession with sound and his background as a radio producer. There was also one named ‘Antarctica’ which has roots in his family tree. Some of the poems were taken from his award winning ‘Drysalter’ collection which was published in 2013, 150 poems which explore themes taken from the 150 psalms. I was also interested to learn about some of the collaborations Michael has been involved in. These include his collection ‘Corpus’ during which he was paired up with a scientist and some forthcoming poems to be published next August inspired by the work of a pianist.
The readings were followed by a Q&A session which provided further insight into these writers’ work. This included discussion of how they both got into writing with both Alison and Michael discovering their enthusiasm for writing from a young age, producing short stories and poetry for school. And into adulthood that passion and enthusiasm remained. The Q&A was rounded off with Alison and Michael discussing how their work starts to take shape and the relationship between the theme of the piece and its structure.
I really enjoyed this evening spent at Lakeside Arts. It was wonderful to hear Alison read from her latest novel and my first experience of live poetry was a positive one, as I was intrigued by Michael’s work which was varied and thought provoking. An enjoyable and informative evening, on what has been a great start to the festival.