Prioritising Poetry


The first time I remember the dramatic impact of poetry was when I went along to Riverside Studios to hear Ted Hughes read poems from his collection on the theme of animals. In the darkened and atmospheric surroundings of the former TV studio, he radiated an air of intensity as he spoke, creating images that were both vivid and violent. So violent that in one case, in a poem about an unsuccessful delivery of a calf in the Devon countryside where he lived, one member of the audience fainted while another had to be accompanied out of the auditorium.

This is the power of poetry – and hearing it from the poet is the most amazing experience.Poetry as an art form predates written text. The earliest poetry is believed to have been recited or sung, or used as a way of remembering oral history so it’s important to seize those opportunities to hear it spoken out loud.

Interestingly, it is thought that the first poet in history was a woman. The Akkadian/Sumerian poet Enheduanna (2285-2250 BCE) is the world’s first author known by name and was the daughter of Sargon of Akkad (Sargon the Great, 2334-2279 BCE).

So, it’s appropriate that Haddo Arts Festival’s Poetry, Place and Perspective evening on October 8 will feature a good mix of male and female poets. In association with the Scottish Poetry Library and the Elphinstone Institute, George Gunn, Aonghas MacNeacail, Liz Niven, Gerda Stevenson and Sheila Templeton will be reading their work out loud and answering questions from the audience.

If you want to get an idea of the different ingredients that make up this poetic recipe, I can provide a soundbyte per poet but at the end of the day, it’s up to you how you respond.

George Gunn – Born in Caithness, with life experience of the fishing and also the North Sea oil industry, George draws on both the Gaelic and Norse influence of his birthplace to produce poetry and plays.

Gerda Stevenson, is an actor, writer, director, singer-songwriter, trained at R.A.D.A., London. She recently published her latest book Quines, a collection of poems in tribute to women of Scotland.

Sheila Templeton – from Aberdeenshire – A Buchan quine, now lives in Ayrshire. She writes in both Scots [often Doric] and English about being a woman, relationships, growing older, nature, landscape, a sense of place.

A reviewer described Liz Niven as someone who exerts intimacy and care in her poems to describe a contemporary Scotland, coupled with the humor of the people, and how the country fits in on an international level.

Aonghas MacNeacail, born in Uig, on the Isle of Skye is a leading voice in Gaelic poetry as well as a songwriter, screenwriter and librettist, whose poetry collection has the ‘richness and subtlety of a good malt. It can deliver a kick, but what remains is a runic, timeless savouring of finely distilled flavour

Poetry can help open us up to wonder and the sometimes astonishing possibilities of language. It is, in its subtle yet powerful way, a discipline for re-engaging with a world we take too much for granted.

Lucy Gordon

Save the Date!

Oxford Professor of Poetry to visit Haddo

2023 – Another terrific Festival!