Special Events

Poetry in the Barn – our Poets

Our poets come mainly from Wales and the Marches, with the notable exception of Pauline Prior Pitt who is flying in from the remote island of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides, and just as notable, but far less remote, Jenny Swann from the Midlands!

Gillian Clarke is our ‘national treasure’ – much loved and admired, she recently retired as the National Poet of Wales. Jonathan Edwards is a Poetry Prize winner. Thirza Clout is one of this year’s Laureate’s Choices, chosen by Carol Ann Duffy as a poet to watch out for. Deborah Alma is also well known and loved for driving around the country in her Poetry Ambulance as the Emergency Poet and is soon to set up a Poetry Pharmacy in Bishop’s Castle.

What they all have in common is that their poetry shines a light on the everyday experiences we all share, and reflects them back to us in new ways. These are poets whose writing reaches our hearts and minds, with beautiful, often deceptively simple language, whose main aim and joy is to connect with their readers and audiences.

If you love poetry – these are the ones you want to hear.  If you are not quite sure yet – come along and be convinced. My mantra throughout my seven years with the Wenlock Poetry Festival, was to offer poetry to those who don’t know they love it yet. Let’s widen the circle – come and be part of it.

Read more about our poets below.

Gillian Clarke

4.15pm to 4.45pm

Gillian Clarke, National Poet of Wales 2008-2016, President of Tŷ Newydd, the Welsh Writers Centre. In 2010 she was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry. Her Selected Poems was published by Picador in 2016, and Zoology by Carcanet in 2017. Her version of the 7th century Welsh poem, Y Gododdin, appears from Faber in 2020. She lives on a smallholding in Ceredigion, where six acres have just been planted with trees, inspiration for new poems, and a woodland journal. More information can be found here www.gillianclarke.co.uk/gc2017/

Jonathan Edwards

12.15pm to 1pm & from 4pm

Jonathan Edwards’s first collection, My Family and Other Superheroes, received the Costa Poetry Award and the Wales Book of the Year People’s Choice Award.  It was shortlisted for the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. His second collection, Gen, was published in 2018. He has read his poems on BBC television and radio, recorded them for the Poetry Archive, and led workshops in schools, universities and prisons. He lives in Crosskeys, South Wales.

From Evel Knievel to Harry Houdini, Ian Rush to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the writing of Jonathan Edwards explores the lives of a wide range of pop culture figures. He balances this with writing with great affection of his family and the places and history of the South Wales Valleys in which he is rooted. A warm, humorous and very moving writer, he offers highly entertaining readings, and will read today from his two acclaimed collections, My Family and Other Superheroes and Gen.

Paul Henry

2.15pm to 3pm & from 4pm

Paul Henry is the author of nine books of verse. Also a singer-songwriter, he’s performed at literary and music festivals in Europe, Asia and the USA. Paul has presented arts programmes for Radio Wales, Radio 3 and Radio 4. Recent songs, co-written with Brian Briggs (Stornoway) have been played on Radios 2, 4 and 6 Music.    

 “Henry is working at the core of lyric poetry, with love and loss and the ‘deeper river’ ”  (The Poetry Review)

“His poetry deepens our perception of the world” (Hugo Williams)

“One of the most important Welsh poets now writing” (Carol Ann Duffy)

More information can be found here: www.paulhenrypoet.co.uk

Pauline Prior Pitt

10.30am to 11.15am

Biog here.

Deborah Alma, aka the Emergency Poet

11.30am to 12.15pm & from 3.15pm

Deborah Alma is a UK poet, editor, lectures at Keele University and is the Emergency Poet prescribing poetry from her vintage ambulance. She has edited poetry anthologies Emergency Poet-an anti-stress poetry anthology, The Everyday Poet, #Me Too – rallying against sexual harassment (Fair Acre Press) and 10 Happy Poems from Candlestick Press. Her True Tales of the Countryside was published by The Emma Press and her first full collection Dirty Laundry was published by Nine Arches Press in 2018, and has been described as “raucous, daring and honest”. She is soon to be the proprietor of the Poetry Pharmacy in Bishop’s Castle, with her partner the poet James Sheard.

Jean Atkin

From 3.15pm

Jean Atkin is an award-winning poet whose work maps memory, work, loss, and place.  Her new collection ‘How Time is in Fields’ is forthcoming from IDP in 2019. Previous publications include ‘Not Lost Since Last Time’ (Oversteps Books).  Her poetry has been commissioned for Radio 4, and featured on ‘Ramblings’ with Clare Balding, and in ‘Best Scottish Poems’ at the Scottish Poetry Library.  She is currently Troubadour of the Hills for Ledbury Poetry Festival and Poet in Residence at Hargate Primary School.  Recent work appears in The Rialto, The Moth, Magma, Agenda and Ambit.  She works as a poet in education and community.

‘How rife they are in the lost places’, writes Jean Atkin of nettles. How rife is Atkin’s sharpened imagination in this intelligent, alert and brilliantly-wrought collection, in which the lost and invisible places of human history and the natural world are brought to teeming life’ (David Morley)

You can read more about Jean here www.jeanatkin.com and follow her on Twitter @wordsparks.

Thirza Clout (The Laureate’s Choice)

From 3.15pm

Thirza Clout grew up in Kent and Wales and now lives on the English/Welsh border in Shropshire. For five years she was Chair of the Board of Wenlock Poetry Festival after careers in journalism, as a stand-up comedian and as a director for a conservation charity. Her first publication was in Breakthru International Poetry magazine while she was still at school. In 2016 her first chap book, The Bone Seeker, was published by Mark Time Books UK and she won the Poetry Prize at the Doolin Literary Festival in County Clare. In May 2019 her second pamphlet, Aunts come armed with Welsh cakes, is being published by Smith Doorstop, chosen by Carol Ann Duffy in her Laureate’s Choice series.

“Thirza Clout’s poems admit us in to a life full of characters and family members, particularly women; the many aunts who make Welsh cakes and their darker deeds as well. Intimacy, love and all the difficulties that come alongside them are played out here, with an eye for bright details and an ear for lyrical story-telling” (Suzannah Evans)

Jenny Swann

11.30am to 12.15pm & from 3.15pm

Jenny Swann is a publisher, author and poetry consultant.  Having founded and run poetry press Candlestick Press from 2008 – 2016, she now runs One Plum Poem a poetry consultancy and poetry card publishing company.  Jenny’s own poetry has been published in three single-author collections, as well as appearing widely in magazines and broadcast on BBC Radio 4.  She has talked about poetry on BBC Radio 4 ‘Woman’s Hour’ and at the London Book Fair and has given workshops and lectures at the V & A, Tate, Courtauld Institute Galleries and the Manchester Art Gallery.

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