Poetry Swindon Festival 2015 was launched on 28 August with the emphasis on fun.
New for this year, original poems and artwork have been reproduced as part of new initiative, Poetry Postcards. There are 28 different postcard designs, with poems written by 21 poets each illustrated by artwork inspired by the poem by over 20 artists. Over 150 postcards were sold at the launch at Central Library.
Bath-based American poet Carrie Etter, a judge for the prestigious Forward Prizes for Poetry 2015, introduced the event and read from her new collection, Weather in Normal, about her home town, Illinois.
Also at the launch, the festival gave away limited souvenir programmes with verse donated by this year’s poets. “I asked poets to give their most enjoyable poem for someone who doesn’t read poetry, to introduce these poets – it’s another way of connecting with new people,” said festival organiser Hilda Sheehan. There may be a few of these available at Swindon Central Library and selected spots – the festival advises people to nab one if they are fortunate to spot one.
From 1 to 5 October, the Poetry Swindon Festival travels by rail and canal, dances around nine white chalk horses, hola-hoops at the Poetry House Party, takes in lunch and tea, looks for lost verse with the Itinerant Poetry Library, and stops off at William Shakespeare station to meet the Bard himself in the exclusive Minecraft poetry world.
And Swindon plays host to some of the best poets in Britain and beyond – Anglo-American Robert Vas Dias, the inaugural canal poet laureate and poet-in-residence Jo Bell, Forward Prize-winner Kei Miller, Andy Jackson with pop culture inspired poetry show Double Bill, poetry art-specialist Pacale Petit and many more.
“With relaxed events – the pleasure of food, the pleasure of poetry – we are creating a lovely vibe,” said Hilda. “We’re only four years old. We becoming more mature or maybe we’re getting sillier.”
A poetic dust up might also be on the cards as Jo Bell, Tania Hershman and Luke Kennard go head to head to debate whether prose (non-rhyming, story) poetry is real poetry. “David Caddy, editor of poetry magazine Tears on the Fence, shocked festival goers in 2014 when he slammed the late and well-loved Michael Donachy for being ‘a terrible poet’, so anything could happen,” said the official festival chronicler, Louisa Davison.
The 2015 Poetry Swindon Festival has partnered with Savernake Community Centre and Swindon Central Library, with Lower Shaw Farm as its base. It venues in Richard Jefferies Museum, Museum of Computing, Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, the Wiltshire and Berkshire Canal, the Cricklade Railway and Artsite. Arts Council England and Swindon Artswords provided funding and support.
The Poetry Postcards can be purchased during the festival for £1 each or visit the Free Shop at Savernake Community Centre (Savernake Street) Oct 3, where they will be given away for one afternoon only. The original artworks will be exhibited at The Post Modern (Theatre Square) from 28 September to 4 October.
For more information and to book tickets, visit www.poetryswindon.org
Pictured top, the Poetry Postcard poets and artists with their artwork at the launch on 28 August Carrie Etter is centre front row with her three postcards. Photo: www.festivalchronicle.com
Pictured below, Jo Bell by Lee Allen. Right, Kei Miller by Martin Figura