When does a good, big book of poetry make you think about the world?
By now you may have read that the UK’s first national poetry festival, The Poetry Festival of Britain, is set to start in Liverpool this September, and that its inaugural weekend will see around 20,000 attendees.
But before you go reading on, you should also consider why the festival is happening.
The festival, which is being organised by the UK Poetry Institute and the British National Poetry Foundation, aims to give “poets the opportunity to have their voices heard in the public debate”, says the website, and it’s about more than just poetry.
The event aims to “build bridges between diverse communities, build relationships with writers, and engage audiences by exploring themes, themes, topics, and themes of the day,” and it will also “celebrate the talents and work of the British national poets”.
According to its website, the festival will “re-invigorate the public and open up new spaces for creative expression” and “provide opportunities for young poets to find their voice and the support they need to realise their ambitions”.
In order to ensure that there is “an open dialogue between poets and non-poets”, the festival has already set up a panel of academics who will be “examining their work in an attempt to create a better understanding of how they have impacted the community”, as well as an “open forum” where “anyone can discuss, critique, or even write about their work”.
According to the festival’s website, its aim is to “reinforce the idea that poetry is the voice of the people”.
“As well as a chance to explore poetry in the context of our larger cultural conversation, we aim to inspire and celebrate our national poets,” the festival adds.
“Our aim is that the festival provides a forum for writers to work together and find common ground, and this is an important part of the UK-wide Poetry and Arts programme.”
The Poetry Forum was created in 2010 by a panel including the novelist, novelist and critic Hilary Mantel, and the novelist and artist Pauline Criado-Perez.
It has since grown into a nationwide network of over 100 writers and artists, and is one of the longest-running events in Britain.
The UK Poets Festival is one such event, with some authors, artists, poets and academics organising poetry workshops and speaking engagements at venues across the country.
“The Poets are coming to us because they want to write poetry, and they’re coming to think about their own work, and to be inspired by it,” says Jonathan Smith, head of UK Poetics.
“And they’re going to see that the Poetry is not just about poetry, it’s also about the stories we tell about ourselves.
They’re coming because they’re curious about poetry and they want it to be told.”
So, what’s the difference between the Poets and the Poetesses?
As the name suggests, the Poems are poets who write in the voice, but also the stories they tell about themselves, and are considered to be part of “the English tradition”.
They are known for their “literary style”, and their “personal style”, which is often described as “punctuated by a strong sense of humour”.
“They’re also poets who have a very strong sense and a very distinctive voice that is a little bit offbeat, but not a little out of place in the world,” says James Garrow, a professor of English at the University of York.
“It’s not a lot of what you’d call a traditional voice, and there’s a real sense of this really exciting, free-spirited voice.
It’s not about a lot about the rules and structures, but about something that’s quite new.””
Poetry is a very powerful and intimate art form that is part of this wider tradition of English poetic writing,” says Garrow.
“It is not something that people do at the moment.”
But, as Smith points out, the “trend is towards more personal, more experimental, and very challenging poetry.”
“The people who write the poetry tend to be very much influenced by their life experience and the lives of their friends and family,” he adds.
“They may write poetry for people who are very much in the past or very much at the end of their lives, and so it’s quite a powerful voice for people.”
According to Smith, the poets who attend The Poets festival tend to have “a very specific voice that’s really different from what you might expect to see in a mainstream writer.
It tends to be something that comes out of a very specific personal experience, and not something which has been written down for the world to hear.
It can be very idiosyncratic.””
It comes out a bit of a bit ragged,” he says.
“I think the Poetics are more likely to have that.”
What do the writers have to say?