In a sleepy East Riding parish late September I joined dozens of poets to descend on a sunny North Dalton, to take part in the inaugural High Wolds Poetry Festival. I’d seen the article about it on the Yorkshire Post online and felt it was the perfect opportunity to get out of the city. Living in the city shifting through concrete and glass quickly becomes claustrophobic and the need for open spaces is all the more pressing.
I thought about how my largely autobiographical work might fit within a rural or Wolds themed programme. Then it struck me, earlier in the year I had written a poem called ‘Swim – Ode To Ice Milers’ dedicated to open water swimmer Allison Cuthbertson and her courageous swim in Welton Water near Brough in extreme conditions. I’m not a swimmer, not at all so saw this poem as a challenge to ‘write what you don’t know.’
Swim had it’s first airing at Women of Words Hull with Allison in the audience, then again in Halifax while judging a slam at the Grayston Unity, the audience feeling the river rhythm of the piece began a slow handclap providing a beat, finally I performed the piece at The Confessional at Adelphi Club where I was accompanied by electronic improv soundscapes created by Phill Wilson and Salbo Baggins when the piece came to life. Decision made I submitted the poem for the festival’s consideration and it was accepted.
Accompanying published poet Matt Nicholson (Kings England Press) was my ticket to the gig, relying on public transport as some had to that day, would have been a nightmare and almost certainly would have been a barrier to my attending.
On arrival I was overjoyed when the copy of the book was pushed into my hands. I read the cover, The High Wolds Poetry Collection. I was thrilled and immediately turned to find my poem in the book, and there it was pg 38. Swim Ode to Ice Milers by Michelle Dee complete with dedication to Allison whose extraordinary feat of endurance had inspired it. I was and still feel honoured to have my words alongside respected writers, whom I have listened to and read for many years. The applause after finishing my short set was warm, and I have to admit to feeling a sense of belonging and kinship with the other writers and poets in the room.
The event had dozens over forty at least poets and writers getting up to share their words some taken from the book some not. And as is the way with these things some folk tried to take up more than the allotted time. If there was any criticism is that the event began to run late fitting all these poets in on the day. My friends who had been there since the start – I arrived an hour late – couldn’t stay until my turn, which was a shame, however there was a steady audience coming and going throughout the day. There were stalls with poets selling their books and pamphlets throughout the day, and a lovely spread of homemade eats to keep the hunger pangs at bay.
The setting was beautiful with greenery all around, a duck pond to walk past to get to the venue from the pub where we parked. The space, stage and tech worked, a vital component in spoken word, so much of spoken word is about the way you play with the sounds through the mic, rising and falling and creating atmosphere that way. Take a whispered word or a shouty line and it makes all the difference with good mic and speakers. There was also beautiful gong stage left which I took the chance to tap to allow the shimmery silvery sound to reverberate across the clean bright interior of the Village Hall.
I have since been back to both Women of Words and The Adelphi (recently at Late Night Ferens too see picture below) proudly waving my copy of the collection. I can say I am now a published poet, in a real book. My thanks and appreciation to Julian F. Woodford and his team for putting on a good event, that with continued support become an essential destination on the Northern poetry circuit.