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How Can Poetry Respond to the Present?

Part of London Literature Festival

From war to terrorism, how can poetry respond to a world on the brink? In the wake of disaster or death, poetry is often shared and today through social media it can reach a global audience in a matter of minutes.

Is the language of poetry ever more necessary in our hyper-connected yet troubled times? What can words do in the face of personal or public loss? And what does this new shareability mean for the art of poetry itself?

Featuring Yang Lian, Kayo Chingoni and Athena Farrokhzad and chaired by Clare Pollard.

Yang Lian
Yang Lian was one of the original Misty Poets who reacted against the strictures of the Cultural Revolution. Born in Switzerland, the son of a diplomat, he grew up in Beijing and began writing when he was sent to the countryside in the 1970s. On his return he joined the influential literary magazine Jintian (Today). His work was criticised in China in 1983 and formally banned in 1989 when he organised memorial services for the dead of Tiananmen while in New Zealand. He was a Chinese poet in exile from 1989 to 1995, finally settling in London in 1997. Translations of his poetry include four collections with Bloodaxe; Where the Sea Stands Still (1999), Concentric Circles (2005), Lee Valley Poems (2009) and Narrative Poem (forthcoming in 2017), as well as his long poem Yi (Green Integer, USA, 2002) and Riding Pisces: Poems from Five Collections (Shearsman, 2008), a compilation of earlier work. He is co-editor with WN Herbert of Jade Ladder: Contemporary Chinese Poetry (Bloodaxe Books, 2012), and was awarded the International Nonino Prize in 2012. Both Where the Sea Stands Still and Narrative Poem are Poetry Book Society Recommended Translations.

Kayo Chingonyi
Kayo Chingonyi (pronounced kai-o chin-gone-yee) is a fellow of the Complete Works programme for diversity and quality in British Poetry and the author of two pamphlets, Some Bright Elegance (Salt, 2012) and The Colour of James Brown’s Scream (Akashic, 2016). His first full-length collection, Kumukanda, was published in June 2017 by Chatto & Windus. As well as being widely published in journals and anthologies, Kayo has been invited to read from his work at venues and events across the UK and internationally. In 2012 he represented Zambia at Poetry Parnassus, a festival of world poets staged by Southbank Centre as part of the London 2012 Festival.

He was awarded the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize and shortlisted for the inaugural Brunel University African Poetry Prize and has completed residencies with Kingston University, Cove Park, First Story, The Nuffield Council on Bioethics, and Royal Holloway University of London in partnership with Counterpoints Arts. He was Associate Poet at the Institute of Contemporary Arts from Autumn 2015 to Spring 2016. He co-edited issue 62 of Magma Poetry and the Autumn 2016 edition of The Poetry Review.

Athena Farrokhzad
Athena Farrokhzad was born in 1983 and lives in Stockholm. She is a poet, literary critic, translator, playwright and teacher of creative writing. After several years of collaborative poetry projects and international collaborations she published her first volume of poetry in 2013, Vitsvit (White Blight) at Albert Bonniers förlag. The book circles around the topic of revolution, war, migration and racism, and how these experiences condition the lives of different members of a family. Vitsvit has been translated to several languages and turned into a play. The same year, her first play, Päron, premiered at Ung Scen/Öst.

Farrokhzad teaches creative writing at Biskops-Arnös författarskola, and has translated writes such as Marguerite Duras, Adrienne Rich, Monique Wittig and Nicole Brossard to Swedish. In 2015, her second volume of poetry, *Trado*, written together with the Romanian poet Svetlana Carstean, was published.

Clare Pollard
Clare Pollard’s first collection of poetry, The Heavy-Petting Zoo (1998) was written whilst she was still at school, and received an Eric Gregory Award. It was followed by Bedtime (2002) and Look, Clare! Look! (2005), which was made a set text on the WJEC A-level syllabus. Her fourth collection Changeling (2011) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, and her latest is Incarnation (Bloodaxe, 2017). In 2003 she won a Society of Authors travel award and an Arts Council writer’s award. The Independent named her one of their Top Writers Under 30. Clare is a Royal Literary Fellow at Essex University, mentors for New Writing North, and is a core tutor on the new Poetry School/University of Newcastle Poetry MA.

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Royal Festival Hall
Level 5 Function Room, Green side, Royal Festival Hall

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