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What’s On

What’s On at the Kendal Poetry Festival in 2020?

The festival will take place on Thursday 18th, Friday 19th, Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st June 2020. You can book tickets for individual events – prices range between £5 to £8, and can be bought from the Brewery Arts Centre. We also have a limited number of £45 Weekend Passes available from the Brewery Arts Centre. A Weekend Pass will allow you to access all of the Poetry Readings, Open Mics and Discussion/Talks (excludes Workshops, Afternoon Tea and Thursday night Open Mic) giving you a saving of £23.

Please note, most events will take place at the Castle Green Hotel. Exceptions to this are Thursday night “Opening Doors” Open Mic which will take place at the Waterstones in Kendal. Friday’s ‘10am Poetry Rhyme Time’ with The Wordsworth Trust; the Read Regional 11am Poetry Workshop; New Writing North’s 12am reading by Hafash Aneela Bashir; the Friday 2-3pm reading by Jackie Hagan; and the Saturday 2.30-3.15pm Children’s Poetry Event with Dommy B will all take place at Kendal Library.

Sunday

10am-1pm / Workshop with Mark Waldron

Location: Castle Room, Castle Green Hotel
Tickets: £16.50

Let’s talk rubbish

Poetry is often most interesting when it lets go of the side of the pool. When the poem has to improvise to stay afloat. In those panicky moments the unconscious might express itself. Language always wants to run along the familiar runnels it was built for, but it can be made, or encouraged at least, to pop out of those runnels for a moment. We’ll look at examples of poems where that seems to be happening, and we’ll look at techniques that might help it happen in our own work. From cut-ups to formal constraints. We’ll also look at the use of nonsense in poetry, and how the surrealists opened up possibilities, gave us, as Mallarmé put it, La grande permission. However cleverly constructed a poem might be, however profound or touching, I think readers want to experience those moments of abandon. Moments of freedom from the tyranny of language and sense.

11am-1pm / Main Reading with Mary Jean Chan and Karen Solie

Location: Kendal Suite, Castle Green Hotel
Tickets: £8

Mary Jean Chan’s first full-length collection Flèche (Faber and Faber 2019) won the 2019 Costa Book Awards for Poetry. Chan’s work explores themes of multilingualism, queerness, psychoanalysis and the complexities of maternal relationships. Karen Solie’s fifth collection of poetry, The Caiplie Caves (Picador, 2019) was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. It is a dazzling exploration of the links between land and the self, haunted by the figure of St Ethernan, a seventh-century Irish missionary to Scotland. Members of Dove Cottage Young Poets will also perform during this event. 

2.30pm-3.30pm / Talk/Discussion with Jonathan Davidson

Location: Kendal Suite, Castle Green Hotel
Tickets: £5

A Commonplace – Poetry, Commentary & Ephemera



Jonathan Davidson’s newly published collection, A Commonplace (Smith|Doorstop 2020), is unusual in containing not only his own work but also ‘guest poems’ by nearly a dozen other poets, including Mick North, Catherine Byron and Jackie Kay. The poems are linked with a commentary – the back-story to some of Jonathan’s own poems, tiny essays on why these ‘guest poems’ are so important to him, and a series of footnotes carrying useful and useless ephemera. 

In this event, Jonathan will attempt to recreate the 98 page conversation that is A Commonplace. He will read a few of his own poems but will also invite the audience to hear these poems through their own voices. There will be some conversation about the importance of bricks and apples for contemporary poetry, and about memory loss and the English Revolution and Bertolt Brecht in Finland, and about how to write a collection that refuses to be a slim volume.

4-5pm / Talk/Discussion with Moniza Alvi


Location: Kendal Suite, Castle Green Hotel
Tickets: £5

‘A strong explosion in the sky’: Beyond the myth of Stevie Smith

‘I am much condescended to, said the poet Hin, / By my inferiors.’ (The Poet Hin)

Moniza Alvi has been drawn to the strangeness and clarity of Stevie Smith’s poetry for many years, and with her experience as a writer and the discovery of the full range of Smith’s poetry she increasingly appreciated it, and is now researching the poet’s life and work at UEA.

Stevie Smith (1902-1971) became a popular poet in the 1960s, receiving the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 1969. Her much-loved poem ‘Not Waving, But Drowning’ is frequently anthologised. Despite her achievements, however, this combative, witty and probing poet is consistently under-recognised as a writer and thinker, compared, for example, with Bishop and Plath, her contemporaries. Moniza will encourage us to look beyond the myth of the ‘eccentric’ Stevie Smith and view her as a major wartime and postwar poet. Drawing on recent archival discoveries, she’ll reveal that insufficient attention has been given to the traumas of Stevie Smith’s early life and how her work might have been shaped by these events. She’ll examine Smith’s stature as a poet and the difficulties she faced as an unconventional woman poet in the very male-dominated poetry world of her lifetime. An exploration of her reputation as a poet then and now, will lead to a consideration of why we should read Stevie Smith today.

5.30-7.30pm / Main Reading with Vicki Feaver and David Morley

Location: Kendal Suite, Castle Green Hotel
Tickets: £8

Vicki Feaver will be reading from her much anticipated fourth collection I Want! I Want! (Jonathan Cape, 2020). Her new work examines the voicelessness of girlhood and the fears of aging with writing that is urgent, accessible and deeply moving. David Morley makes a welcome return to Cumbria. His work is rooted in the natural world, exploring the idea of the poet as traveller through language and landscape. Members of Dove Cottage Young Poets will also perform during this event.

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