‘Which is why Aldeburgh going is such a disaster. It took years to achieve what they did, years. Of slog, mail outs, and driving miles just to see one teacher to persuade them to come to a workshop. And then get their kids to enter the competition. A whole culture. Gone, overnight. Think of the literally millions of conversations that Aldeburgh spawned. Poet to poet, poet to reader, reader to poet, reader to reader. Publisher to reader. I know this is not what you had in mind, but essentially Aldeburgh was the pedagogy of social interaction. ‘This is how you do it,’ they said. ‘This is how it is done,’ ‘This is how you treat people.’ They were teaching us. Putting great people together in the same room together, expecting the best of them, and encouraging those conversations to flourish. That’s why people went back there, that’s why the poets flocked, even when they weren’t booked to read. Can you imagine that?’
The book has started to smell a little. Another empty tumbler has appeared on the coffee table, just out of reach from where the book lies, its face buried in the sofa. It looks like a bouncer the morning after a Christmas party.
‘Poets, going to other poets’ gigs?’
‘But why? That’s not supposed to be how it works at all.’
‘That’s what made it special. They put the content, and the person, first. They had no time for ego. Do you remember that photo of Andrew Motion and Galway Kinnell, the one where they are just standing together, being in each other’s presence. It’s an inward gaze they have, at the same time as being completely at one. Deep regard passing between them. That’s what Aldeburgh did. It brought people together. Like a good teacher, it expected the best from everyone.’
‘Why do you always go back to teaching? Not everything is, you know.’
‘I think that’s where your wrong. Everything is pedagogy. Supermarkets are pedagogy. Even nightclubs. Strictly Come Dancing is pedagogy. There’s a PhD thesis being written on it as we speak.’
‘You think they design them by accident? All the goodies on the ends of the aisles? The cheap wine and the chocolates they lose money on? It’s didactic, telling you how to behave, but it is still pedagogy. Aldeburgh turned that top-down culture on its head. It said ‘You are the conversation. You are the ignition key. And we can’t wait to hear what you have to say.’ Why else did they invest so much energy and time bringing on new and undiscovered poets? The place was nurture. It had grasped the building blocks of civilization and of culture. And now it is gone, like Carl Sandburg’s Buffaloes.’
‘I think you’re overstating it now,’ the book says.
‘You think so? You really think so? You want a ‘review of the year’? Well, in terms of poetry, that is the most significant thing. Easily. For me personally, and for everyone. It would be like losing The Rialto. Or Rolls Royce shutting down. You might not notice it straight away, but in a few years we are really going to notice it, and we will walk into the garden and howl.’