Line up

We’re thrilled to bring you four days of world-class poetry and spoken word talent with a literature line up you’ve never seen before.

Verve features established as well as up and coming poets, internationally acclaimed talent and undiscovered local artists, writing workshops, spoken word masterclasses, poetry slams, and lively children’s poetry and storytelling events – all under one roof. We promise that these readings, workshops, open mics and one of a kind performances will delight, surprise, shock, move and inspire you.

All events take place across three floors of Waterstones’ beautifully refurbished Birmingham store, right in the city centre.

Concession tickets are available to students, over 65s, long-term unemployed and the disabled. Festival Passes allow you entry into all readings and events, except for workshops. Please book workshops and masterclasses separately!

Festival Main Stage (2nd Floor)
Festival Main Stage (2nd Floor)
Workshop Space (6th Floor)
Kids Festival Stage (3rd Floor)
Festival Main Stage (2nd Floor)
Workshop Space (6th Floor)
Kids Festival Stage (3rd Floor)
Festival Main Stage (2nd Floor)
Festival Main Stage (2nd Floor)
Festival Main Stage (2nd Floor)
Workshop Space (6th Floor)
Kids Festival Stage (3rd Floor)
Festival Main Stage (2nd Floor)
Workshop Space (6th Floor)
Kids Festival Stage (3rd Floor)
Festival Main Stage (2nd Floor)
18:30 - 20:00
Poetry Parlour with Imtiaz Dharker

We are delighted to kick off the first night of Verve’s second year with a very special guest. Waterstones’s regular Poetry Parlour event features open mic slots, followed by a reading and Q&A by iconic poet Imtiaz Dharker, who was awarded the Queen’s gold medal for poetry in 2014. Imtiaz is in conversation with poet and editor Jane Commane. “If there were to be a World Laureate, then the role could only be filled by Imtiaz Dharker” – Carol Ann Duffy. £6/4. Book your tickets here. 

The event is sponsored by the University of Birmingham.



Imtiaz Dharker
Jane Commane
20:30 - 22:30
Hit The Ode: Verve Technology Special

Our opening night continues with a Verve edition of a much-loved staple of the Birmingham poetry scene, brought to you by Apples and Snakes. Join Tomomi Adachi, Hannah Silva and Yomi Sode for a special event that explores technology and poetry. There are 8 open mic slots on a first come, first served basis. £6/4. Book your tickets here. 

Brought to you by Apples & Snakes Midlands.


Tomomi Adachi
Yomi Sode
Hannah Silva
18:30 - 20:00
Karen McCarthy Woolf, Sasha Dugdale, Mir Mahfuz Ali

We are so pleased to have such a wonderful group of poets to kick off our second night. Karen Mccarthy Woolf’s latest collection from Carcanet – Seasonal Disturbances – was a Poetry Society Recommendation. Sahsa Dugdale’s long poem, ‘Joy’, won the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem and is the title poem in her new Carcanet collection. The collection Midnight, Dhaka introduced Mir Mahfuz Ali to the poetry world to great acclaim when it was published by Seren in 2014. £6/4. Book your tickets here. 

Sponsored by Birmingham City University. Chaired by Jo Bell.


Karen McCarthy Woolf
Mir Mahfuz Ali
Sasha Dugdale
Jo Bell
20:30 - 22:30
Dead or Alive Slam

Two poetic worlds will collide at Dead or Alive Slam at Verve, only the second time this format has ever been done. Witness a battle of words and wit as three of the UK’s leading contemporary slam poets challenge three dead poets in three epic slam rounds, judged by a panel of audience members. Who will be the victor? You decide. £6/4. Book your tickets here. 

Bohdan Piasecki
09:30 - 10:30
Poetry Breakfast

Join us for a chilled start to the first full day of the festival with the Verve team, with coffee, laid-back readings and a friendly, open discussion on what you can expect from the rest of the festival. Free but limited spaces so book your tickets here.

10:00 - 12:00
Karen McCarthy Woolf Workshop

Forming the Line: In this workshop Karen McCarthy Woolf shares her passion for new forms. Bring a contemporary poem that you love, come and experiment to see what you can create. £20/13.50. Book your tickets here.

Karen McCarthy Woolf
10:00 - 12:00
Robert Harper Poetry Surgeries

We are delighted that much-loved poet and editor of Bare Fiction Magazine, Robert Harper, is holding 30 minute Poetry Surgeries at Verve again. Have a poem or two you’d like eagle-eyed feedback on? Want feedback on your work and a plan to action to help you improve as a poet, all in a friendly and laid-back setting? Step into the Poetry Surgery, Rob will see you now. £7.50 per 30 minute session. Buy your tickets now. 


Robert Harper
11:00 - 12:30
City Poems

Verve Poetry Festival presents City Poems, featuring six commissioned poems by local poets of note — Roy McFarlane, Bohdan Piasecki, Amerah Saleh, Jenna Clake, Casey Bailey and Ahlaam Moledina — plus the Verve Competition winners. And all hosted by competition judge Luke Kennard. Free but limited seats so book your tickets here.

Sponsored by the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce.


Luke Kennard
11:00 - 12:00
Wonderful Words Workshop, with Joshua Seigal

Come and listen to Joshua reading some of his fantastically energetic poetry, and then have a go at writing and performing some of your own. Suitable for children aged 7-11. £3. Book your tickets here.

Joshua Seigal
12:30 - 13:15
Joshua Seigal: I Don’t Like Poetry

Joshua Seigal reads some silly, some funny, and some downright hilarious poems from his poetry collection I Don’t Like Poetry, which was shortlisted for the 2017 Laugh Out Loud Awards, and Little Lemur Laughing, his latest collection. If you like poetry, you’ll like this event. And if you don’t like poetry, you’ll LOVE it! For kids 5+. £2. Buy your tickets here.

Joshua Seigal
12:30 - 14:30
Jacob Sam-La Rose Workshop

Jacob Sam-La Rose presents a practical masterclass geared towards supporting artists of all levels in ways of managing their work, building systems and workflows for getting work done, and using available technology to support and extend the work they do — with topics ranging from smart and sensible pointers for managing email to building creative knowledge management systems. £20/13.50. Buy your tickets here.

In association with Apples & Snakes Midlands.


Jacob Sam-La Rose
12:30 - 14:30
Sasha Dugdale Workshop

“The type of guy who would face a firing squad / with a laughing face.” Poets have long been adept at ‘raising monuments not built by hands’ and particularly poignant are the poems written for the ‘little people’, those whose life’s achievement is simply surviving and who are rarely commemorated with monuments or plaques. We’ll look at poems which commemorate the ordinary human being in adversity by David Constantine, Adnan Al-Sayegh, Anna Świrszczyńska and Maria Stepanova and we’ll begin writing poems for the unsung heroes in our worlds. £20/13.50. Buy your tickets here. 

Sasha Dugdale
13:00 - 14:00
The Sea-Migrations

Asha Lul Mohamud Yusuf reads alongside leading poet Clare Pollard, who shares her brand-new English translations of Asha’s poems. This bilingual reading celebrates the long-standing friendship and collaboration between these two poets, and celebrates their new collection The Sea-Migrations. £6/4. Buy your tickets here.

Brought to you by the Poetry Translation Centre.


Asha Lul Mohamud Yusuf
Clare Pollard
Erica Jarnes
Poetry Translation Centre
14:00 - 14:45
Ieva Flamingo & Richard O’Brien: Poems about School

It isn’t easy being a kid, especially in the noisiest class in the school. Would it be better if you could smuggle a cat in? Join Latvian poet Ieva Flamingo and translator Richard O’Brien for this bi-lingual reading of poems from The Noisy Classroom. Suitable for 8+. £2. Buy your tickets here.

Ieva Samauska
Richard O’Brien
14:05 - 14:20
Lunar Poetry Podcasts Presents Nuar Alsadir

David Turner chats to Nuar Alsadir

Founding editor of Lunar Poetry Podcasts, David Turner asks  Nuar Alsadir why festivals such as Verve are important to their practice and what role, if any, live performance/reading live plays in that process. Expect poems, laughter and no chin stroking!

Nuar Alsadir
14:30 - 15:30
Stablemates presents Offord Road Books: Martha Sprackland, James Brookes, Bobby Parker

Stablemates presents three cutting-edge poets from new independent publisher Offord Road Books. Featuring Bobby Parker, James Brookes and Martha Sprackland. £6/4. Buy your tickets here.

Brought to you by Stablemates and hosted, as always, by Jill Abram.

Bobby Parker
Jill Abram
Martha Sprackland
James Brookes
15:00 - 17:00
Poetry Translation Centre Workshop with Clare Pollard and Delaina Haslam

Have a go at collaborative translation and help us to bring contemporary poems to life in English! Poet Clare Pollard and translator Delaina Haslam lead this hands-on workshop on French-language poetry from Africa. All are welcome, and no knowledge of the language is required! £20/13.50. Buy your tickets here.

Brought to you by the Poetry Translation Centre.

Clare Pollard
Delaina Haslam
15:30 - 17:00
Anthony Anaxagorou Masterclass

Writing Place: How do we write poetry about the familiar? Be that your back garden, your local coffee shop or your country of origin? In this master class with poet Anthony Anaxagorou participants will look at ways they can extrapolate important information to build a narrative around place. They will learn how to distill vital hallmarks and convert those very subjective ideas into poems. The workshop invites all ages and abilities and will also include a sharing at the end for those who wish to read their work out. £20/13.50. Buy tickets here. 

Anthony Anaxagorou
15:35 - 15:50
Lunar Poetry Podcasts Presents Sandeep Parmar

David Turner chats to Sandeep Parmar

Founding editor of Lunar Poetry Podcasts, David Turner asks  Sandeep Parmar why festivals such as Verve are important to their practice and what role, if any, live performance/reading live plays in that process. Expect poems, laughter and no chin stroking!

16:00 - 17:30
The Poetry Assembly with Jane Commane

In celebration of the publication of her Bloodaxe poetry collection Assembly Lines, Jane Commane hosts an afternoon of poetry from some of her favourite midlands-based poets with new poetry publications also hot off the press. Featuring readings by Roz Goddard, Liz Berry, Romalyn Ante and Matt Black as well as Jane, toast the arrival of these new books and pamphlets and join in the celebrations with music, cake and the sharing of a fine selection of new poetry. £6/4. Buy tickets here. 

Jane Commane
Roz Goddard
Liz Berry
Romalyn Ante
Matt Black
18:00 - 19:30
Pascale Petit, Hannah Lowe, Sandeep Parmar

Our Saturday poetry headline features three award-winning poets at the top of their game. Sandeep Parmar’s Eidolon won the inaugural Ledbury Forte prize for best second collection. Hannah Lowe is a Next Generation poet and her most recent collection, Chan was published by Bloodaxe in 2016. Four times T.S. Eliot Prize shortlisted Pascale Petit reads from Mama Amazonica, her seventh collection, which is a Poetry Book Society Choice. £6/4. Buy tickets here. 

Sponsored by Shopping in Birmingham. Chaired by Gregory Leadbetter.


Pascale Petit
Hannah Lowe
Sandeep Parmar
Gregory Leadbetter
20:00 - 22:00
Out-Spoken Press Showcase

After an exhilarating showcase at Verve 2017 and sell-out events at festivals across the UK, Out-Spoken Press is back with their full house of poets sure to challenge, thrill and move you: Anthony Anaxagorou, Raymond Antrobus, Joelle Taylor, Sabrina Mahfouz, Bridget Minamore, Hibaq Osman and Fran Lock. Come watch poetry titans perform. £6/4. Buy tickets here. 

Anthony Anaxagorou
Raymond Antrobus
Joelle Taylor