Line-Up

View the full programme for our 2019 festival 

Our 2019 programme

We’re so thrilled to bring you this year’s Verve Poetry Festival line-up of contemporary poetry and spoken word. Taking place in the heart of Birmingham at the Old Rep Theatre, Verve 2019 features special collaborations, cross-genre performances, inspiring workshops and so much more. We’ve programmed brand new events, like the inaugural Verve Performance Lecture, commissioned fantastic artists and even flown in our very first Poet of the Festival!

See below for a day-by-day breakdown, or head on over to Eventbrite to book your tickets directly. Tickets for individual events start at just £6 (£4 for concessions), while day passes for Saturday and Sunday are available for £20 (£16 for concessions). We’ve also got a strictly limited number of full festival passes up for grabs – offering four days of world-class poetry for just £35 (£25 for concessions)!

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18:30 - 20:00
Poetry Parlour with Andrew McMillan

£6 / £4 • Buy Tickets

The third Verve Poetry Festival kicks off with our Poetry Parlour. Join us for a poetry event featuring open mic slots and very special poet Andrew McMillan. His debut collection physical was the first ever poetry collection to win The Guardian First Book Award and his second collection, playtime, is a PBS Autumn 2018 Recommendation.

This event is sponsored by the University of Worcester.

Andrew McMillan
20:30 - 22:30
RAP Party

£6 / £4 • Book Tickets

The R.A.P (Rhythm And Poetry) Party.

What might eloquent voices from contemporary poetry and spoken word movements have to say about hip-hop’s past, present and future? Come chill and find out at Inua Ellams’ Rhythm And Poetry Party… a nostalgic, no-clutter, no-fuss, night of hip-hop-inspired poems and favourite hip-hop songs.

Inua Ellams
18:30 - 20:00
Carrie Etter, Amy Key & Jane Yeh

£6 / £4 • Book Tickets

Our Friday evening poetry headline features three renowned contemporary poets. Amy Key’s second collection Isn’t Forever is published by Bloodaxe in 2018 and was a Poetry Book Society Wild Card choice. Carrie Etter is a distinguished poet and academic who has been shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry. Her fourth collection, The Weather in Normal, was a Poetry Book Society Winter 2018 Recommendation. Jane Yeh was named a Next Generation poet by the Poetry Book Society in 2014. Her third collection of poems is forthcoming from Carcanet in March 2019 and we are thrilled to have advance copies on sale.

This event is supported by the University of Birmingham.

Carrie Etter
Amy Key
Jane Yeh
20:30 - 22:30
The YoniVerse presents: Golden Tongue

£6 / £4 • Book Tickets

The YoniVerse presents ‘Golden Tongue’ – a poetry night focused on amplifying the voices of South Asian women. It gives them a space to share their stories, and gives everyone else a place to come listen, engage, and be part of a big energetic poetry experience! The YoniVerse is a poetry collective by South Asian women, for South Asian women. We believe in owning our narratives, in celebrating the diversity of our diaspora and identities. Most of all, we believe in being loud.

We bring you finger-licking good samosas and heart-warming spoken word poetry. Headlining are the core collective members, Shagufta K, Amani Saeed, Afshan D’Souza, and Shareefa Energy, who will be joined by the talented Rupinder Kaur and Nafeesa Hamid. Afterward, singer songwriter, Amrit Kaur Lohia will be gracing the stage with her trademark fusion blend of Punjabi folk, RnB and Soul. Expect the sharing of incredible poetry, food, and music. Everyone is invited!

This event will include an open mic.

Afshan D’Souza-Lodhi
Amani Saeed
Shagufta Iqbal
Shareefa Energy
Rupinder Kaur
Amrit Kuar Lohia
Nafeesa Hamid
10:00 - 12:00
Carrie Etter Workshop

£20 / £13.50 • Book Tickets

Welcome to the Prose Poem: As interest in prose poetry reaches new heights with the publication of The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem, this seminar will explore the form with an array of exciting examples, address its distinctness from flash fiction, and offer an exercise to help you compose your own. Carrie taught The Poetry School’s first course on the form in 2005 and has been teaching Sudden Prose: The Short-Short Story and Prose Poem at Bath Spa University since the same year.

Carrie Etter
10:30 - 12:30
Bernardine Evaristo Workshop

£20 / £13.50 • Book Tickets

A practical writing workshop exploring narrative poetry and verse fiction. You’ll look at how to write poetry that draws on some of the key elements of fiction such as characterisation, plot, setting and dialogue.

Bernardine Evaristo
11:00 - 12:30
Verve Poetry Festival 2019 Competition: Community

Free! (Registration Required)

The Verve Competition winners reading, commissioned poets performing and a new Verve book launch, all in one lively event! Come hear poets reading from the brand new Verve Poetry Press anthology of poems on the theme of ‘Community’. All hosted by competition judge, Joelle Taylor.

Tickets for this event are free, but booking is essential! Register through the link above.

Joelle Taylor
13:00 - 13:45
The First Verve Annual Performance Lecture (in association with the Poetry School)

£6 / £4 • Book Tickets

The first ever Verve Lecture Performance! In this debut event, renowned poet Anthony Anaxagorou will deconstruct some of the ways ‘performance poetry’ has been defined in both traditional and contemporary periods. He will ask what makes the performance of a poem distinct from its reading, and whether there is perhaps something more insidious behind such terminologies that denote class, race, and otherness. The Verve Lecture Performance invites a poet to create a 45 minute presentation fusing academic discourse with poetry and spoken word, on a subject of their choosing. Brought to you in association with the Poetry School.

The event is supported and co-produced by the Poetry School.

Anthony Anaxagorou
13:00 - 15:00
YoniVerse Workshop

£20 / £13.50 • Book Tickets

The Yoniverse (a spoken word collective of South Asian womxn) host a writing workshop to accompany the magical night that is Golden Tongue! This is a chance for writers of all levels to connect, grow, and support each other. The workshop will take you on a series of exercises to explore writing techniques, share your work in a nurturing and fun environment, to discuss ideas, and engage with the work of other poets, and of course to eat ladoo. This event is open to all, however please expect South Asian Womxn to be leading the conversation. We would love to you to join us, so bring a poem, opinions and sparkle.

13:30 - 15:30
Burning Eye Presents: Getting Published Workshop

£20 / £13.50 • Book Tickets

Whether you want to write poetry for the page or the stage, Burning Eye Books editors Bridget Hart and Clive Birnie will demystify the complexities of the poetry world. This session will provide you with a practical guide to progressing your poetry career and will include inspirational case studies and exercises. Read more…

14:00 - 15:30
Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Theresa Lola, Rachel Long & Momtaza Mehri

£6 / £4 • Book Tickets

Four trail-blazing voices, award-winning poets and pillars of the UK poetry community — Momtaza Mehri, Theresa Lola, Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Rachel Long — will read their work and discuss what it means to be a woman poet of African descent in the current climate of unprecedented interested in African literature. Presented in partnership with the Brunel International African Poetry Prize. The event will be hosted by Bernardine Evaristo.

Victoria Adukwei Bulley
Theresa Lola
Rachel Long
Momtaza Mehr
Bernardine Evaristo
15:00 - 17:30
Anthony Anaxagorou Workshop

£20 / £13.50 • Book Tickets

This workshop session asks: when is a poem finished? How do you know what to take out and what to keep? Anthony Anaxagorou will look at various ways in which you can approach editing a poem without subtracting from its essence. The words you employ and the way in which you organise them are what eventually determines a poem’s success. Read more…

Anthony Anaxagorou
16:30 - 17:30
Owen Sheers: To Provide all People

£6 / £4 • Book Tickets

In 2018, the BBC broadcast Owen Sheers’ film poem, ‘To Provide All People’, in a timely reminder to us all of the deep importance of our National Health Service. It is a wonderful film! We are thrilled that Owen has agreed to read and perform large extracts of this incredible work for us at Verve, and to talk about the themes discussed in the poem and the processes behind making it. This will be an incredible and rarely seen poetry experience.

Owen Sheers
18:00 - 19:30
Sumita Chakraborty, Vahni Capildeo & Sophie Collins

£6 / £4 • Book Tickets

Our Saturday night poetry headliner features readings by three essential poetic voices from around the world. Vahni Capildeo won the Forward Prize for Best Collection for Measures of Expatriation and was shortlisted for a Forward for Venus as a Bear. Sophie Collins is co-founder and editor of tender journal and author of a brilliant and urgent debut, Who is Mary Sue? Finally, we’re delighted that award-winning poet Sumita Chakraborty joins us as inaugural Verve Poet of the Festival.

This event is supported by Birmingham City University.

Sumita Chakraborty
Sophie Collins
Vahni Capildeo
20:00 - 22:00
UniSlam Presents: Maria Ferguson, Roger Robinson, Debris Stevenson & more

£6 / £4 • Book Tickets

As the UK National University Poetry Slam, UniSlam provides a platform for hundreds of young people to develop their craft and express themselves through poetry. This year, UniSlam comes back to where it was born: Birmingham. And as part of the festival special, you’ll hear the winning team and also the winner of the first Verve Prize for Best Individual Performance at the competition.

So come and catch some of the most exciting rising stars of poetry perform alongside some of the UK’s biggest and most original spoken word artists in this electrifying live poetry event. Showcasing some of UniSlam’s most notable alumni, Ife Grillo and Ellen Renton, supporting spoken word legends Roger Robinson, Debris Stevenson and Maria Ferguson.

Maria Ferguson
Roger Robinson
Debris Stevenson
Ife Grillo
Ellen Renton
10:00 - 12:00
UniSlam Workshop: Shut up and write!

£20 / £13.50 • Book Tickets

Writers’ block getting in your way? Inner critic doing your head in? Or could you just use a bit of fresh inspiration? Join Vanessa Kisuule and Toby Campion for this collaborative, welcoming workshop designed to help you shake off the dust, approach poetry in new ways and most importantly, get writing! Run in association with UniSlam, the UK National University Poetry Slam.

Vanessa Kisuule
Toby Campion
10:30 - 12:30
Vahni Capildeo Workshop

£20 / £13.50 • Book Tickets

Award-winning poet Vahni Capildeo leads a workshop on eco-poetry, a subject close to her heart. Join this visionary poet in delving deep into writing about the environment, geography and space. For all levels and not to be missed!

Vahni Capildeo
11:00 - 12:30
Proletarian Poetry Showcase

£6 / £4 • Book Tickets

Going now for over four years and having featured some 150 poets, proletarianpoetry.com featured poems which address what it is like living in today’s febrile political climate. They cover themes such as football, capitalism, politics, refugees and war. The website is run, and the event will be hosted, by Peter Raynard, who has invited Amir Darwish, Rishi Dastidar, Nadia Drews, Anna Robinson, and Julia Webb to showcase their work.

Peter Raynard
Amir Darwish
Rishi Dastidar
Nadia Drews
Anna Robinson
Julia Webb
13:00 - 13:45
Verve Poet of the Festival, Solo Reading: Sumita Chakraborty

£6 / £4 • Book Tickets

Verve’s very first Poet of the Festival is Sumita Chakraborty, a Forward-shortlisted poet and recipient of a Ruth Lilley and Dorothy Sargent Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, who visits us from the US. She honours us with a solo reading of her remarkable long poem, ‘Dear, Beloved’; a vivid, moving epic about love, grief, and family.

Sumita Chakraborty
13:00 - 15:00
Sabotage Reviews Presents: Review Writing Workshop

£20 / £13.50 • Book Tickets
Charley Barnes, Managing Director of Sabotage Reviews, will run this one-off workshop detailing what makes a stellar (Sabotage) review! Charley will be sampling from previously published Sabotage pieces to show attendees what it takes to write an informed, respectful, but sharp review of prose, poetry, and much more. If you want to take steps into the review world, this workshop will lay the basic foundations for what you need to write, and how. Read more…

13:30 - 15:30
Jacob Sam-La Rose Workshop

£20 / £13.50 • Book Tickets

Join renowned poet, passionate educator and facilitator Jacob Sam-La Rose for an inspirational and practical workshop open to writers of all levels. You’re sure to leave with new approaches to your own practice of poetry.

14:15 - 16:00
Burning Eye Showcase

£6 / £4 • Buy Tickets

Bristol based backroom press Burning Eye Books brings a group of best-loved and internationally renowned performance poets to Verve. Showcasing the big names and titles of 2017-18 including Toby Campion, Vanessa Kisuule, Scott Tyrrell and Nora Gomringer.

Toby Campion
Vanessa Kisuule
Scott Tyrrell
Nora Gomringer
16:00 - 18:00
Liz Berry Workshop: Spells and Incantations

£20 / £13.50 • Buy Tickets

What magic can a poem make? What spells can we cast with our words? Join two time Forward Prize-winning poet Liz Berry for a workshop full of poems which seek to make something happen – spells curses, hexes. Come ready to read, write and make magic. Suitable for poets of all stages.

16:30 - 17:30
Second City Poets: Playground

£6 / £4 • Book Tickets

Playground’ is a full-length poetry and spoken word show that captures the sounds and experiences of growing up alongside friends and strangers. Featuring performers who went to school in five different countries, ‘Playground’ highlights not just how universal some of those experiences are but also how adult life features its own kind of playground dynamics: camaraderie, isolation, reprieve and much, much more.The Second City poets are last year’s winners of UniSlam, from the University of Birmingham. ‘Playground’ has been created for Verve.

The Second City Poets
18:00 - 19:30
Jacob Sam-La Rose, Alison Brackenbury & Moniza Alvi

£6 / £4 • Book Tickets

Our penultimate event at this year’s Verve is our Sunday night poetry headliner, featuring readings and discussion with three poets we’re thrilled to feature. Moniza Alvi is one of poetry’s national treasures. Her collection At The Time Of Partition (2013) was enthralling and was followed in 2018 by the wonderful Blackbird, Bye Bye. Jacob Sam-la Rose is a force of nature in verse, but is so busy educating and working with young poets that he rarely gets to read himself. We are in for a treat! And what to say about Alison Brackenbury? Nine collections in, we are honoured that she has agreed to launch her 2019 Selected Poems, Gallop (Carcanet) at Verve!

Alison Brackenbury
Jacob Sam-La Rose
Moniza Alvi
20:00 - 22:00
Funkenteleky Verve Special

£6 / £4 • Book Tickets

Birmingham’s most irregular poetry & music night swings by for some extra verve. Featured poets Polarbear, Jasmine Gardosi, Kareem Parkins-Brown and Bethany Slinn intertwine their electric verse with the playing of acclaimed improvising musicians, led by virtuoso saxophonist Xhosa Cole. Join this legendary line-up of local and national performers for a series of daring, one-time-only collaborations. And witness further poetic jeopardy in the inaugural, exhilarating, brief, and portmanteau-happy Verveteleky Slam – where the musicians are the judges and everyone breaks the rules. Come celebrate Verve 2019 with an unmissable finale of poetry, melody, and zero preconceptions. Anything could happen and the word for this is Funkenteleky. Hosted by Jack Crowe and David Ferris. Tunes spun by Wolva Meme. This event will include an open mic.

Polarbear
Jasmine Gardosi
Kareem Parkins-Brown
Bethany Slinn
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