A guide to Poetry International 2019

Wednesday, October 16, 2019 - 12:27

Poetry International has been running biennially since 1967 and is our longest running festival. For 2019’s incarnation the theme was disruption, and the festival explored translation, endangered languages and resistance. This guide to the festival should ensure your weekend is as diligent, diverting, disruptive and delightful as possible.




Up you get. You need to be here for 10.15am to train your eye and ear on the choices that construct poetic meaning in a masterclass with Belarusian poet Valzhyna Mort, Translation as a Revision Technique. It will sharpen your revision skills through the study of translation - what better way to start the day. Smack bang in the middle of the masterclass at 11am is another fantastic translation-focused event, Exploring Translation as Disruption, with a panel of Adelaide Ivánova, Rachel Long, Meena Kandasamy and Sandeep Parmar. They will explore ideas and complexities of decolonising translation.

Translation as a Revision Technique
Exploring Translation as Disruption



Head downstairs and you’ll see we’ve uprooted the Library and placed it in The Clore Ballroom for all to see. And see it you should, as National Poetry Library Open Day kicks off at 12pm and allows you to browse gems from the library’s collection and see its selection of new acquisitions. Pop back at 2pm for performances from poets Olivia Douglass and Hannah Raymond-Cox.

Having said that, you may want to be firmly in the Purcell Room at that point, where multi-award winning poets Raymond Antrobus, Ilya Kaminsky and Lisa Kelly share the stage in d/Deaf Republic: Poets on d/Deafness, 1.30pm. The event looks at the poets’ personal experiences of d/Deafness as well as wider contexts in which d/Deaf communities have been marginalised.

You will now be hankering for the morning you spent exploring disruption. Luckily for you, at 3pm we will be Exploring Poetry as Disruption with the brilliant Iris Colomb, JR Carpenter and Nisha Ramayya. Modern poetry has continually reinvented itself – this event shows you where the artform is heading in the 21st century.

Or perhaps it’s another masterclass you’re after, and quite right too. At 3pm, Chinese-American poet Chen Chen will lead a workshop looking at self-portraits, asking: how do you describe, name and transform the self in poetry?

National Poetry Library Open Day
d/Deaf Republic: Poets on d/Deafness
Exploring Poetry as Disruption
Chen Chen Poetry Masterclass: Self-Portraits

Ilya Kaminsky Poetry Masterclass
Ilya Kaminsky, who takes part in d/Deaf Republic: Poets on d/Deafness



Now’s a good time to refuel before the launch of a groundbreaking anthology of poetry written in endangered languages: Poems from the Edge of Extinction, 6.30pm. The anthology brings together dynamic, international poets whose languages are under threat for reasons as diverse as political upheaval, climate breakdown, genocide, war and colonialism.

These poems will leave you feeling fired up so finish the day in a fiery way at My Name Is My Own at 10pm, a physical performance featuring new work from prize-winning poet Jay Bernard. My Name Is My Own responds to June Jordan's ‘Poem About My Rights’, rearticulating her phrase ‘And what in hell is everybody being so reasonable about?’. You may not have the answer, but we hope day one of Poetry International will ask you all the right questions.

Poems from the Edge of Extinction
My Name Is My Own

Incendiary Art: the Power of Disruptive Poetry
Chinese-American poet Chen Chen who leads a workshop looking at the self-portrait




Hurry back to Royal Festival Hall on Sunday at 11am for a masterclass with Navajo Nation Poet Laureate, Laura Tohe. You will write poems connecting to urgent environmental and political issues, starting the day as you mean to go on: with urgency!

Laura Tohe: Poetry Masterclass



And with that, ping, whoosh, kapow: there's a poem going off at Poems that Pop, 12pm. Poets Valerie Bloom, Joshua Siegal and Rachel Rooney will present their most explosive work - get ready for fireworks with poems for children and families.

Also at 12pm, A New Divan sees Khaled Mattawa and Syrian poet Adonis, known as 'the grand old man of poetry’, discuss poetry, translation and traditions as they celebrate the book A New Divan: A Lyrical Dialogue Between East & West, which responds to Goethe’s West-East Divan, 200 years after its publication.

Poems that Pop
Adonis & Khaled Mattawa: A New Divan

I recommend a fortifying bite to eat before Incendiary Art: the Power of Disruptive Poetry, a reading and discussion at 1.30pm with incendiary, inimitable, internationally renowned poets Patricia Smith, Chen Chen and Vaughan Rapatahana. Then gather your emotions and head to Poetry in Motion, kicking off at 2pm. Animators have squashed and stretched poetry by Claudia Rankine, Carol Ann Duffy and more, in a series of films. Poems as you’ve never seen them before.

Incendiary Art: the Power of Disruptive Poetry
Poetry in Motion

If you’ve been paying attention in the poetry world, you’ll have heard about the Ledbury Emerging Poetry Critics programme. At 3.30pm you can hear what they have to say as they discuss the poetry collections shortlisted for this year’s Forwards in Ledbury Poetry Critics: Forward Prizes Preview.

After looking at the Forwards, get forward-looking at 4pm at Futuristic Fairy Tales: A Poetry Performance, where you’ll hear poems by young people, written in a course studying fairy tales with poets Selina Nwulu, AHHA AHHA, Sai Murray and Farzana Khanwhich.

Ledbury Poetry Critics: Forward Prizes Preview
Futuristic Fairy Tales: A Poetry Performance

Poems from the Edge of Extinction
Laura Tohe, who delivers a Sunday morning masterclass



To celebrate the end of a brilliant weekend and the best in British poetry, join us at 7pm in Queen Elizabeth Hall for The Forward Prizes for Poetry Ceremony. The ceremony will award prizes for Best Collection, Best First Collection and Best Single Poem. However many events you make it to over the weekend, I’ve decided the prize for Best Poetry International Attendee goes to you.

But wait! Come back! Specifically, come back at 7.30pm, Monday. It’s only right that the festival’s very last event will be with a lasting cultural icon: poet and activist Nikki Giovanni, discussing the power of literature with Bridget Minamore. Poetry International 2019, over and out.

The Forward Prizes for Poetry Ceremony
Nikki Giovanni in conversation


These are just a selection of the many events of Poetry International which takes place across Southbank Centre from 16 - 21 October.

see full event listings



shop london literature festival

Literary 'Tea Large Enough' Tote Bag

'Isometric Books' Coaster Set

Capri Bookmark

The Poetry Pharmacy Return