2017 has been a thick year for poetry, and for Verve. Here’s a peek behind the curtain and a quick round up of everything we’ve has been up to.
The Birmingham Poetry Anthology
One of our festival partners The Emma Press, a local press known for beautifully made poetry pamphlets, published This Is Not Your Final Form, an anthology of Birmingham-inspired poems and original illustrations (drawn by Emma herself). The title is a nod to the way Birmingham is constantly changing and re-inventing itself. The book launched with a bang at the inaugural festival and featured winners of the first ever Verve Poetry Festival competition. It’s a stunner of a book; buy your copy direct from The Emma Press here.
Verve Poetry Festival 2017
Our inaugural year! Fuelled by big ambitions and an equal mix of enthusiasm and abject terror, we launched the Verve Poetry Festival with a bang. We wanted to create a festival that reflected the city’s urban, diverse, energetic, creative and industrious spirit, and invited 40+ of the very best poets to take over Waterstones Birmingham for four days and numerous events. Sell-out readings and packed-to-the-rafters performers with a diverse audience proved, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that poetry is alive and well.
Verve Poetry Festival 2018
Once we had recovered from our inaugural year, we started planning Verve 2018. And we’re pleased to say we’re committing to our mission of taking a wrecking ball to everything you thought a poetry festival should be. Don’t believe us? Buy your tickets to hear Imtiaz Dharker, Liz Berry, Salena Godden, Sabrina Mahfouz, Nuar Alsadir, Anthony Anaxagorou, Pascale Petit, Hannah Lowe and so many more brain-meltingly good poets perform and run workshops. Tickets are going faster than the last roast potato at Christmas dinner, so I’d be quick about it.
Launching Verve Poetry Press
As much as we love Verve, it only happens once a year. So we decided to bottle the Verve magic by launching a press. It’s more than just publishing great verse, the Verve family of brands is about creating change and platforms that widen poetry audiences — something we feel is needed now more than ever.
Why start a press? Well, despite lots of progress for widening access and the types of writers being heard, it’s still pretty dire. Only 16% of poetry published by main presses is diverse. Faber and Faber has still only published four people of colour in its storied 88 year history (all of them male). And pieces like the Guardian’s “Diversity in publishing — still hideously middle class and white?” keep pointing out again and again the sorry state of UK publishing. Change wasn’t happening fast enough, so Stuart Bartholomew, Co-Director and Lead Programmer of Verve, decided to crack on and do something about it.
The Festival made us realise that 1) there’s much work to do to break down barriers between page/spoken word poetry, 2) there was an opportunity to publish Midlands poets and 3) there is a market for it. (Or rather, Verve was helping to create a market for it.)
The Verve Poetry Press has already secured a stable of brilliant Birmingham poets and has big plans, so keep following us on Twitter to see what we’re up to!
To everyone that has cheered, championed, crowdfunded, clicked, celebrated and come out to support Verve with their voices, their time and their wallets, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. It couldn’t happen without you. Here’s to more madcap poetry adventures!
Stuart Bartholomew, Cynthia Miller, Nellie Cole, Fabio Thomas & the Verve team