Sheaf [Digital] Poetry Festival 2020

We all know what a year it’s been,
and sometimes it feels like a bit of a miracle that we’re able to bring you a poetry festival at all in 2020. But thanks to careful planning from our amazing team, we’ve devised a digital festival that can sustain you through the winter months! Click here to view the full programme.

The festival has two loose themes that work alongside each other. The first of these is wellbeing and particularly mental health, which has been central to the project of Genevieve Carver, our poet-in-residence. Genevieve presents a workshop that focuses on meditation and creative writing, and a panel discussion on poetry and mental health with poet and mental health worker Ben Dorey and poets Sarah Wardle and Caroline Bird. Genevieve has also been working with Sheffield mental health charity Flourish, and once it’s safe to do so we’ll have in-person events resulting from this collaboration too. Poet Abi Palmer will also read from her poetry memoir Sanatorium, a book full of baths and mystical experiences, charting the imperfect narrative arc of chronic illness and healing.

We’ve also found that our selection of poets engage with the environment and climate change in a wide range of ways. Carrie Etter and Caleb Parkin will be addressing this in their workshop, which explores the found poetry of ecology and the queer poetry of climate.
J. R. Carpenter’s workshop focuses on the ephemeral changes in weather and climate and how we might find the words to pin them to the page. All three poets will be also reading from their work during the festival, and our Carcanet Press reading features work shared by three poets whose work explores terrain, landscape, and creatures, among other things; Mina Gorji, Isabel Galleymore and Kei Miller.

We’ve got our fair share of new voices at this festival; starting with the brilliant new work of Hive South Yorkshire and our young poet-in-residence Lauren Hollingsworth-Smith, and the Poetry Business New Poets’ Prize which features four winners of a competition for writers aged 17-24. Nine Arches Press’ Primers will showcase three emerging poets that have been mentored towards publication through this valuable scheme for emerging poets. We’ll also hear from three poets at the debut collection stage of their careers with different presses; Will Harris (Rendang, 2020) Phoebe Stuckes (Platinum Blonde, 2020)  and Tom Sastry (A Man’s House Catches Fire, 2019) .

We’re hoping for an atmosphere of digital shared
experiences. Jonathan Davidson’s A Commonplace is a unique book that pulls together his own new poems alongside poems he admires by other poets; and we’re going to explore this through a shared reading with Jonathan and Roz Goddard. On Saturday evening we’ll hear from two poets whose work is luminous with tiny details, formal brilliance and evocative atmosphere, both of whom have recently published their second collections of poetry in the UK; Mona Arshi and Niall Campbell. Sunday afternoon’s event sees us working with the Poetry Translation Centre to bring you readings from, and discussions with, Indian poet Arundhathi Subramaniam, Palestinian poet Najwan Darwish, and his translators Paul Batchelor and Atef Alshaer.

You’re in for a treat! Tickets for workshops can be booked at the Eventbrite links given, and event tickets can be booked for a donation, which we’ll be massively grateful for as we proceed into the uncertain future – it’ll help us to ensure that the festival can build resilience and return in 2021! If you’re not able to make a donation, don’t worry – you’ll still have access to the Youtube Premiere event links – we realise it has been a tough time for many. The majority of the readings will also feature a Q&A, so have your questions primed and ready too.

We’ll be launching on Friday 20
with readings from both of our poets in residence and incredible music from Sufi-soul musician Sarah Yaseen – we hope to see you there! In the meantime, click here for our Mini Digital Poetry Festival: a specially-curated line-up of online readings (featuring many of this year’s poets and performers) that we put together earlier this year.

We’d really value your feedback on this year’s Festival. Please click here to fill in our short (one-page) audience survey; this will help us to improve and develop future Festivals.

For now, wash your hands and stay safe!  We’re looking forward to seeing you in November.

Suzannah, Brian, Angelina, Katie and Ellen
Sheaf Poetry Festival

p.s. This year’s digital festival events are pay-as-you-feel, and if you’d like to make any donation, the money will go towards helping Sheaf exist into the somewhat uncertain future! We’re hoping to be back in person in 2021. Click on the button below to donate:

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