Now in its fourth year, Nottingham Poetry Festival 2019 looks set to be the biggest and busiest yet, with an eclectic array of events, workshops and performances filling a jam-packed ten-day schedule between 26 April - 5 May, filling venues like Lakeside Arts Centre, New Art Exchange and Metronome. Our Poetry Editor Chris McLoughlin gives us a run down of some of the highlights...
With book sales hitting an all-time high in 2018, poetry in all its forms is on the up. Now, we’ve got Nottingham Poetry Festival coming our way at the end of April, showcasing the city’s incredible home-grown poetic talent, alongside some huge names coming to our landlocked shores.
We’re spoilt for words at the moment, and there’s never been a better time to pick up a pen and pour yourself onto the page, or out loud on stage. Just in case you need some inspiration, we’ve collated some of Nottingham’s amazing regular poetry nights and writing collectives appearing in the festival, some ways you can get involved in poetry, and some names to watch out for...
(Poetry) Night Fever
If you wanna see just how big poetry is in Nottingham, just look at the huge list of poetry nights. Sometimes it can feel like Nottingham’s got more poetic events than Shakespeare had plays, each with a unique voice and feel. So, where to start?
Say you fancy hearing a load of poets perform a poem each, and you want the chance to get up and try your own words out loud. For that, look no further than Crosswords, which has twenty available open mic spots and just one headliner. Or, perhaps you’d rather sit back and enjoy longer sets by featured poets, with a diverse range of voices. We’d recommend Between the Shadow and the Soul, over at City Arts.
There really is a poetry night to cater for almost any taste. What about an atmospheric array of poets hosted by Nottingham’s charming cockney son? Speech Therapy. Tucking into a sarnie surrounded by warm words and interesting art? Big White Shed. A pint of ale, an electric atmosphere and a night that prides itself on inclusivity? Clickbait.
Let’s not forget the poetic explosion brought to you by Word Jam, showcasing intercultural and multi-lingual poetry, and the incredible things we can learn from each other. Blackdrop, Totally Wired, Chapter and Verse… the list goes on! They’re all fantastic nights with their own feel, and many are hosting events at the Poetry Festival, so be sure to check the full Festival brochure.
Write The Fight
For those of you wanting a chance to try your own wordsmithery, there will be plenty of writing workshops and collectives kicking off at the festival. DIY Poets are a long-running, friendly and welcoming poetry collective. They’ll be strutting their stuff, so be sure to catch them performing and see what they’re about. Then there’s Write The Poem, where you can grab a coffee, mix craft and community, and jot down some words.
As well as performing, the legendary John Hegley will also be hosting an adult workshop. Hegley’s work spans poetry, comedy and song writing, and his performances are varied and often include the audience in exciting ways. For all those younger pens looking to get involved, there’s also the Young Writers’ Group over at Nottingham Central Library. This is a fantastic opportunity for the next generation of Nottingham poets to develop and get support with their writing.
From Aht of Tahn
So, we’ve established that Notts is chock full of poetry. We couldn’t fit anymore in, right? Not so fast, the Poetry Festival will also bring some of the UK’s leading poets to our doors. Caroline Bird is an incredible poet whose performance switches from hilariously funny to vulnerable and raw in an instant, often in the same line. Bird’s work spans five poetry collections and is dynamic in range and themes; when describing her collection Watering Can, she says the poems “contain prophetic videos, a moon colonised by bullies, weeping scholars, laughing ducks, silent weddings - all the fertiliser that pours on top of your head.”
We will also be welcoming the incredible Patience Agbabi, a poet who flows between the written and spoken word, often mixing contemporary themes with traditional forms. As her poem The Word puts it, "Give me a stage and I'll cut form on it / give me a page and I'll perform on it. / Give me a word / any word".
For those more musically minded, there’s world-renowned Reggae Poet, Linton Kwesi Johnson. With a career spanning forty years, and accomplishments such as creating his own record label, to being the second ever living poet to have his work published in Modern Penguin Classics, Johnson amazes his audience, performing his incredible words in Patois over Reggae. Definitely not one to miss.
And with a line-up including poets such as Andrew McMillan, Ian McMillan, Lorraine Mariner, John Hegley and Roger McGough, there’ll be no shortage of rhymes and good times.
There’s something special happening in Nottingham. We’re Poetry mad here, and some of the most interesting and inspiring poets in the UK come from down our way. Plenty of these wordy warriors will be performing at the festival, so be sure to catch some of these fresh voices redefining poetry.
Over at Leftlion, we’ll be hosting an event to showcase four diverse but crucial voices in Nottingham poetry: Midnight Shelley, Tee Peters, Ravelle-Sadé and Margaret Gosley. Whether they’re exploring mental health stigma, using their words as a force for change or combining art forms in unique ways, these poets are part of the wave of artists redefining the discipline, and Nottingham’s proud to have ‘em. You can catch these incredible artists, as well as poems from a collection of LeftLion’s SnapNott Poets, at Unheard Verse, taking place at the Fox & Grapes on Sunday 5 May.
Like we said, poetry’s on the rise. Young and old are using it as a form of self-expression, to connect with others, and to create communities. There’s the want to be heard, to listen to other voices. People are taking back poetry, and the power of words. Nottingham’s always had a reputation as a rebellious, diverse and brave city. Maybe it’s no surprise the Spoken Word is rising.
Nottingham Poetry Festival runs from Friday 26 April – Sunday 5 May.