The exciting 2018 programme was launched today (15 March) by the Scottish Makar Jackie Kay in an event at The Mining Institute, Newcastle, where she also read from her latest book Bantam (2017).
The festival, now in its fourth year, promises to be its most ambitious yet. Taking the theme of Crossings, writers and performers from across the UK and beyond will explore the notion of borders in art, travel, music and, of course, poetry. The festival itself crosses between various venues around Newcastle, including Sage Gateshead and Northern Stage.
An undoubted highlight will be a collaboration with the major retrospective of acclaimed artist and Newcastle University graduate Sean Scully, co-hosted by the Hatton and Laing Galleries (February – May 2018). Eight poets (Ian Duhig, Luke Kennard, Sean O’Brien, Sasha Dugdale, Imtiaz Dharker, Karen McCarthy Woolf, Sasha Dugdale and Degna Stone) have created new works inspired by Scully’s paintings. A reading of some of these new poems has been scheduled during the festival (Friday 4 May); they will also be available to the public via the Crossings mobile app which allows visitors to read and listen to the poems while viewing the artworks in situ.
This event will also see the launch of Waves and Bones, a poetry project sponsored by the Area of Outstanding National Beauty Partnership. A group of poets visited sites on the Northumbrian Coast to be inspired by relics and stories of pilgrimage. The result is a video and photography collage created by artist Phyllis Christopher which includes readings of the poems by Linda Anderson, John Challis, Christy Ducker, Linda France, Cynthia Fuller, Kris Johnson, Peter Hebden, Lisa Matthews, Theresa Muñoz and David Spittle.
Borders and barriers
The festival gets underway on Wednesday 2 May, at Newcastle University’s Boiler House, with a special event featuring critically-acclaimed poet, Jorie Graham, the first of several US poets, including Patricia Smith, Carolyn Forché, Ilya Kaminsky and Fanny Howe who will all be performing during the festival.
Graham is the author of numerous collections of poetry and winner of the 1996 Pulitzer Prize. PLACE won the Forward Prize and in 2017 she was awarded the Wallace Stevens Poetry Prize. The evening is hosted by Tara Bergin, whose own collection The Tragic Death of Eleanor Marx (2017) has been shortlisted for the Forward Prize, the T S Eliot Prize and the Irish Times Poetry Now Award.
At a time when borders and barriers are increasingly part of political discourse, this year’s Northern Poetry Symposium (3 May) will be exclusively devoted to the art of poetry in translation. Held at the magnificent Sage Gateshead, this promises to be a day of lively debates, workshops and readings. The symposium is co-hosted by the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts (NCLA), PoetTrio and the Poetry Book Society.
In the evening, Spanish poet Fernando Valverde and singer Juan Pinilla, will be fusing the arts of poetry and Flamenco, while MOBO award winning jazz duo Binker & Moses will be in musical dialogue with Tyehimba Jess who will read from his Pulitzer Prize-winning collection Olio (2016), which features poems about the history of African-American music.
Taking the themes of war, poverty and racism, as identified by Martin Luther King in his 1967 speech in Newcastle, which is the focus of the poetry anthology, The Mighty Stream: Poems in Celebration of Martin Luther King (2017), join Shami Chakrabarti, Carolyn Forché and Patricia Smith for a discussion covering human rights and poetry (Friday 4 May, Northern Stage).
During the evening, Newcastle Poetry Festival welcomes the multi-award-winning Irish poet, Ciaran Carson, to Newcastle for the first time. Carson is the author of over a dozen books spanning poetry, translation and prose, and is a major figure in Contemporary Irish Letters. He will be accompanied by the much-garlanded Sean O’Brien and Leanne O’Sullivan, another award-winning Irish writer of great repute.
Cultural and linguistic crossings
The concluding day of Crossings offers visitors an opportunity to hear the work of up-and-coming writers and performers. On the morning of Saturday 5 May, poetry lovers are invited to Northern Stage to listen to the work of current MA in Writing Poetry students based at The Poetry School in London, and at Newcastle University.
Acclaimed poet Sasha Dugdale will be delivering the Newcastle Poetry Festival Lecture, sponsored by the Royal Literary Fund and addressing issues of cultural and linguistic crossings in the case of Russian literature.
In the afternoon, Ten: Poets of the New Generation is a celebration of the latest instalment in the highly-acclaimed Bloodaxe series of books which presents the work of exciting British poets from diverse backgrounds, with readings from Raymond Antrobus, Momtaza Mehri and Degna Stone. Later, there’s very much an American theme as New-York based Nuar Alsadir precedes Ilya Kaminsky and Fanny Howe.
A series of corresponding workshops running throughout the festival have been designed to afford visitors a chance to enjoy a hands-on approach to the festival, allowing them to engage directly with many of the visiting stars.
Speaking at the launch of the 2018 Newcastle Poetry Festival programme, Co-Director, Linda Anderson said: “We’re very excited to be presenting such a diverse programme, with poets who are performing in the North-East and even in the UK, for the first time.”
Her Co-Director Sinéad Morrissey added: “It’s been amazing to be part of poetry programming of such calibre. A literary festival of this quality, diversity and duration devoted exclusively to poetry is unique in the North East. The Newcastle Poetry Festival is clearly going from strength to strength.”
Newcastle Poetry Festival is organised by the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts, part of Newcastle University.
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