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December 2017

Poet Spotlights: Salena Godden, Luke Wright, Nuar Alsadir, Liz Berry

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Salena Godden

Salena Godden is a jack of many trades – poetry and performance, memoir and essay writing, teaching and mentoring – and is a master of all. She is a powerful poet in her own right, with publications such as Fishing In The Aftermath (Burning Eye Books, 2014) and Under The Pier (Nasty Little Press, 2011), as well as the album LIVEwire (Nymphs and Thugs, 2017), which was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award. Her essay ‘Shade’ featured in the Book of the Year’s Readers’ Choice, The Good Immigrant (Unbound, 2016). Why wouldn’t we be excited to host this poetry titan at Verve 2018? Watch her perform her iconic poem ‘Red’, here.

Luke Wright

Luke Wright is a hugely successful poet, theatre-maker and performer, whose nine spoken-word shows and two verse plays have toured worldwide and received great acclaim. But long before Wright brought Johnny Bevan (2015) and Frankie Vah (2017) to the stage, he formed the poetry collective Aisle16, with fellow student at the University of East Anglia, Ross Sutherland. We’re thrilled to announce that Aisle16 will be reforming for a special one-off performance here at Verve 2018, in a stand-up reunion that is not to be missed!

 

Nuar Alsadir

All the way from New York… We are beyond excited to announce that Nuar Alsadir will be joining us at Verve 2018! Alsadir’s work as a psychotherapist and psychoanalyst, as well as her fierce engagement with politics and media, makes her poetry some of the most striking writing around today. Her most recent collection, Fourth Person Singular (2017), was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection in England and Ireland, and her work has previously appeared in publications including Granta, The New York Times Magazine, Magma, and the Poetry Review. With an interest in how the mind perceives sensations and orders thoughts, Alsadir’s poems make you think, and think again. Read Nuar’s recent piece in Granta here.

 

Liz Berry
Hailing from Birmingham’s close neighbour, the Black Country, Liz Berry writes poems that are at the same time familiar and otherworldly. Distinctive for their use of Black Country dialect, her poems combine the stories of everyday lives with folkloric imaginings, and always seem to be just on the edge of metamorphosis. Berry’s debut collection, Black Country (Chatto & Windus, 2014), won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, and the Somerset Maugham Award. Watch and listen as Liz Berry brings a little bit of local magic to the stage at Verve 2018. Hear Liz read her poem ‘Bobowler’ here.

2017 Verve Roundup

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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.

 
Award-winning poets Katrina Naomi and Mona Arshi (photo by Thom Bartley)

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.

Same time, same place, a whole new line-up of poets to thrill, inspire, challenge and move you.

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