Oh, the difference a comma makes! If it wasn’t for that little squiggle you might have thought I was saying goodbye to poetry for ever (which leads me to lead you to Emma Darwin’s excellent blog on the subject here.) But no, of course not. It’s just that summer is, quite surprisingly, upon us and for me that means the annual Guiney migration westward to the States and a couple of months of seeing family and friends, and sitting on the beach. But I was longing to have some quality “summer in London” time before I headed off, and happily I did — most of it at the South Bank (except for my morning at Parliament which you can read about here) at Poetry Parnassus.

Kosal Khiev, thanks to studio-revolt.com

Shailja Patel, photo by Victor Dlamini

Poetry Parnassus is the brainchild of Simon Armitage, poetic rock star if ever there was one. I think it was one of those crazily great ideas that comes as a spark, and leads you into a maelstrom of insanity. This was an audaciously ambitious undertaking — namely, to take part in all the Olympic madness by  hosting the largest assembly of poets from across the globe and asking them to read, share, think, muse and dream about all things poetic. The result was a week’s worth of workshops, events, parties, and its fair share of visa problems. No one could have participated in it all, but I was able to go to the first day’s “World Poetry Summit” and its  panel on translation issues and then a discussion of the international poetry scene and the role of international festivals. In the evening, there was the (thankfully) compulsory cocktail party where I was able to accomplish my main goal of connecting with the American/Cambodia poet Kosal Khiev.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to collaborate a bit when I’m back in Cambodia next year.  Thursday evening I then went back to the Queen Elizabeth Hall to hear Kosal read in a programme called The Mask of Anarchy, along with poets from The Young Producers, the Kenyan-born poet Shailja Patel, and some fabulous music as well (I’m ashamed to admit I’ve forgotten this talented singer-songwriter’s name). There will be many more events happening throughout the weekend, and I hope I can get to see some of them, although I already know I’ll have to miss Seamus Heaney tonight. But the highlight of the week, I think, will still have to be walking back from Covent Garden towards the South Bank along Hungerford Bridge in the midst of the “Reign of Poems”. Imagine the sound of a helicopter overhead, hundreds of heads turned up to the sky to find thousands of bookmark-shaped poems raining down. Everyone was scurrying to pick them up from the ground or catch them in mid-flight. I was able to nab two. It was an inspired and inspiring moment.

London has ushered me into my summer, a time which is always very busy, lots of fun though also a bit disorientating. There is work I still aim to accomplish, like finishing the next draft of novel 3, working on some new poems, continuing my Cambodian lessons. And there will be more than the usual flying back and forth between my two home countries, to do our bit for the Olympics and take in a music festival in Italy.

And so I am signing off to my usual bi-weekly posts for a while. I’ll still be here, but more sporadically. Do check in, please, or put me on your Google Reader list or whatever you do to keep track. There will still be new things to read about, such as the up-coming launch of Shauna Gilligan’s wonderful new novel in July.

But for now, happy summer!