23rd April: you couldn’t move without tripping over Shakespeare. Four hundred years after he died, people still read and perform his work, and use the phrases and words he invented (which is a completely different blogpost and we haven’t time now [WIACDBAWHTN]).
He wrote 154 sonnets (or someone did, WIACDBAWHTN). The call went out for readers, and Winchester Poetry Festival organised 154 people to read them consecutively over a whole day in the Discovery Centre. It’s a bustling library, café and exhibition space, and having almost continuous sonnet reciting going on next to kids choosing their library books and people having coffee made a great atmosphere.
Not all sonnets are created equal, even William’s (WIACDBAWHTN), and since people could request a particular favourite to read I’m sure there was some genteel jostling for position behind the scenes when they allocated the running order. I offered to read anything, so as Hampshire Poet they put me in at Number 1 to kick the whole thing off, which was a great honour.
Mark Byford introduced the day, and his description of me and my role as Hampshire Poet brought home to me again what an opportunity I have this year to get out and take poetry to people right across the county. Now I sound like an evangelist.
I didn’t take 154 pictures, but here are a few from the diverse readings we had during the day. I couldn’t stay until the very end, but I know Josephine Corcoran was there too and has blogged. Josephine is a poet and will be Festival Blogger at Winchester Poetry Festival in October. The programme is online now and you can get tickets tomorrow.
There are many ways to read a sonnet in public (WIACDBAWHTN). We had arm-waving performances, nervous plain readings, confident glasses-pushing-ups, overcoming broken ankles, a granny/granddaughter combo, people who had never read Shakespeare in public before, school children … the one thing common to us all was our love of the words. He wrote damn fine words.