Lifting the veil


One of the principles we have inherited from our founder, Robert Hutchison, is that we are a “festival of poetry, not simply a festival of poets”. This implies two things – that we are interested in extending the audience for poetry beyond those who are ‘in the know’ or already actively engaged with it, and that we offer ways of enjoying poetry that go beyond listening to readings.

It is for this reason that our programme includes practical workshops in the craft of poetry, talks and discussions, close readings and a range of activities designed to open the door to poetry for children and young people.

Our talks range far and wide. We begin with the very down-to-earth How to Make a Living as a Poet, in which Matt West and Harry Man share their immediate practical experience of what it takes to keep body and soul together and still pursue your dream. Expect lots of tips on how to engage with the world of poetry – in all its diverse manifestations – as a practitioner and activist.

Our Translation Duel has been so successful it has been taken up by others, notably our friends at Ledbury Poetry Festival. This year promises a stunning bout as Carolyne Larrington and Debbie Potts go toe-to-toe with their individual translations of Old Norse verses. Have your say on what works for you and discover a new world of vigorous writing.

Things Being Various, our conversation series, this year features poet and artist Annie Freud in dialogue with Jon Sayers. Annie says “I write my poems as little films. I see it as a visual thing, in front of my eyes, and that tells me what the poem might be about.” Often surprising, always personal and revealing, this format in which the subject shares ‘five things’ which have inspired or influenced their life and work is both highly entertaining and says a lot about what motivates a writer to express herself in poetry.

The Caribbean has produced some of the most vigorous and life-affirming poetry of recent years, poetry which harvests the diverse cultural and linguistic heritage of the region, its politics and folklore, its musicality and vivid imagination. In Profound Pyromania Vahni Capildeo and Ishion Hutchison discuss the remarkable variety and lyricism of Caribbean poetry – expect to be surprised and delighted.

We quite blatantly stole the model of close readings from the Aldeburgh poetry festival. We were impressed by the way in which a poet’s personal insight into a particular poem not only illuminates that work but sheds light too on the craft and appreciation of poetry more generally. When the poet shares their enthusiasm for a poem they are simultaneously lifting the veil, enriching our understanding and passing on a passion. These free events have proved extremely popular and I look forward to the poems chosen by this year’s contributors Paul Batchelor, Golan Haji and Doireann Ní Ghríofa.​


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