Spoiler alert – I’m inclined to gush when I like something, so be prepared…
I was going to love it or hate it, wasn’t I? No half measures – a week-long Masterclass with two poetry icons, Gillian Clarke and Carol Ann Duffy, in the beautiful Welsh countryside (and it hasn’t even rained properly yet).
Ty Newydd, the former home of the late British PM David Lloyd George, is now the National Writing Centre of Wales. When I applied for a place on a residential course with the UK’s Poet Laureate (Carol Ann) and the Welsh National Poet (Gillian) back in December, I was hopeful, but not convinced I’d be worthy.
Fast forward to March when I discovered I’d been selected to take part (gasp!). Sleepless nights worrying if I have what it takes to step up to the mark manifested an annoying cough.
I needn’t have been quite so worried. Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke are an entertaining double act who know their stuff. They are wonderfully approachable and supportive – and it is lovely to witness their great friendship. And of course, the words of wisdom are plentiful and helpful.
There are 15 of us here – all wimin (because none of the men who applied were up to scratch – ha!) and I know I’m not alone in finding the pace frenetic, and the intensity and enthusiasm of some of the other participants, mind bending.
There’s something in me that knows talent can’t be taught, but I also know that insider tips, advice and a professional eye can go a long way to nurturing a germ of creativity. While I’m surrounded by stunning wordsmiths, I’m smart enough to recognise that I’m not the most (or the least) talented here. But my work is already greatly improved from my participation.
On Tuesday night, Carol Ann and Gillian gave us a poetry reading in the library – all new, unpublished material, much of it getting its first public airing, which was thrilling. On Wednesday evening, they’d invited Imtiaz Dharker who had us enthralled with a selection of new and old poems, beautifully crafted and delivered.
We’re over half way through the course already – and I haven’t even mentioned the delicious food (a vegan chef in charge of the kitchen – heaven or what? And he has a cat, I mean, well…).
Clearly, there’s more to follow.