Poetry is alive and stronger than ever. It has a heartbeat. Anyone with a glimmer of interest in poetry can come close to that heartbeat at Winchester Poetry Festival with its outstanding assembly of poets from across the world who will come together from 5-7 October.
The focus for the 2018 programme is notions of identity and place. At a time of what appears to be growing division in society, we want our performers and audiences to reflect on how we conceive of and project our individual identities, particularly in relation to ideas of place. We want to explore how poetry functions as an important outlet for self-expression, but at the same time offering us the opportunity to understand each other better.
Poetry has diversified into a universe of new voices generating work which is truthful, passionate, personal, vibrant and laced with everyday revelations. Like many new generation poets, Holly McNish, our Sunday evening performer, has been christened ‘spoken word artist’, appearing on YouTube, with spoken word albums to her name, as well as poetry collections. She is just one example of how rich and dynamic the realm of poetry is today.
Of course the most special aspect of a poetry festival is to hear the work lifted from the page and injected with the life force of its creator. There will be thoughtful poems, spirited ones, funny ones, poems about love, place, identity, isolation and belonging but the privilege is to hear each one spoken authentically by its author. If you don’t recognise the names of some of this year’s poets, there are rich discoveries to be made. Personally I’ve pinpointed Pascale Petit and Nikola Madzirov as two exciting and original voices whose work I want to know better.