Sunday, 23 August 2009

Inside the Yurt by Carol Ann Duffy

Poet Laureate and long-time friend of the Book Festival, Carol Ann Duffy has written a wonderful poem in tribute to our outgoing director Catherine Lockerbie. She read Inside the Yurt – a humorous and occasionally emotional homage to the book festival – at Catherine’s leaving do on Sunday 16 August and again at her public event on the Monday. It has subsequently been printed in the Times newspaper for everyone to enjoy.

Duffy said that it was difficult to put into words Catherine’s contribution to “the most magnificent, most important and most generous book festival in the world.”

“Catherine has got total integrity. That’s what makes it so special. It’s a shining light for language.”
Inside the Yurt by Carol Ann Duffy (for Catherine Lockerbie)
Inside the yurt was a pond where goldfish swam
and the poets fished for haiku, undisturbed
by the piper playing an old lament outside.
Inside the yurt was a parliament, the politicians
took off their masks at the door and lay down
with the truth, a dram, from where they watched
London Town floating away like a dream.
Inside the yurt was an elephant, a hump-backed whale,
a swarm of bees, a Vice-President of the USA
who had come to say enough was enough. Inside
the yurt was a mosque at dusk, the sound of a wholly
human voice. A novelist whizzed round and round
in the yurt in her red Ferrari. A scientist checked
his notes on the next tsunami. A polemicist helped himself
to a large red wine and salami. Inside the yurt
was a loch where the National Monster swam
and another dram … and another dram … and another dram …
Inside the yurt was a magic pen which signed the name
of someone who wasn't there. Inside the yurt was the key
to a prison cell; a candle burned. Inside the yurt
was a wishing-well, a Gaelic spell, the Hogmanay bells,
a nine-year queue of children, women, men,
two million, then, all in the yurt in a singing ring
for Catherine, for Catherine, for Catherine,
who brought to the yurt the living, giving word
and the bells and the books and the candles. Thank her.

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