Poets' Picks: 5th Woodstock Poetry Festival

Oxford Writers' HouseNews2016NovemberPoets' Picks: 5th Woodstock Poetry Festival

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Poets' Picks: 5th Woodstock Poetry Festival

The 5th Woodstock Poetry Festival - Oxford's homegrown literary treat, organized by the Woodstock Bookshop - opens this weekend with a star-studded programme. In anticipation, we asked four Oxford poets about which events they were most looking forward to!  

 

Mary Jean Chan:

Sissay’s mural and graphic work entitled Superman was a Foundling is particularly powerful because it highlights how many of the fictional characters within classical and contemporary literature whom we love were either orphaned, fostered or adopted.

What a wonderful programme! My personal favourite would be to hear Lemn Sissay, Chancellor of Manchester University and official poet of the 2012 Olympics, read from his recent collection, Gold from the Stone. Having recently visited the Foundling Museum in London, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Sissay had been a Coram Foundling Fellow, a fellowship extended to artists whose work resonates with the creative philanthropy of Thomas Coram and his early supporters, including William Hogarth and George Frideric Handel. Sissay’s mural and graphic work entitled Superman was a Foundling is particularly powerful because it highlights how many of the fictional characters within classical and contemporary literature whom we love were either orphaned, fostered or adopted (see featured photo). As a poet who is passionate about the intersection between politics and literary expression, I find Sissay’s work to be deeply affecting and socially indispensable.

 

Kate Asquith: 

I believe an audience is truly spoilt when Deryn Rees-Jones and Jamie McKendrick are in the same room together!

What’s most exciting about Deryn Rees-Jones and Jamie McKendrick’s joint event is the opportunity to hear two very different, but two very organic voices in one. While Rees-Jones’s poetry is strong with intent and authoritative in its story-telling, McKendrick’s seems softer, but no less evocative. Both these poets are creating something unique and very current in their work; stimulating a powerful discourse between a whole range of emotions and images, while thoughtfully capturing underrated as well as familiar moments that exist within a lifetime. As a must-see event, I believe an audience is truly spoilt when Deryn Rees-Jones and Jamie McKendrick are in the same room together!

 

Stephen Durkan: 

Her poetry is shot through with compassion and it always reminds us that the past resonates in the present.

I recommend that the good people of Woodstock go and see the incredible Liz Lochhead. Not only is she a dramatist, poet, former Makar (Scottish version of Poet Laureate) and occasional contributor to experimental hip-hop; but she is at first a thoroughly humane writer. Her poetry is shot through with compassion and it always reminds us that the past resonates in the present. Her words live just as well on the breath as on the page. Whether it brings us to Cape Cod, Berlin or the outskirts of Glasgow, her writing never fails to ring true in your nerve endings.

 

Mary Anne Clark: 

It is always interesting to watch a group of writers responding to a single theme in different ways, based on different experiences, and this theme is such a vital and emotive one.

This looks a fantastic programme. It offers the chance to hear poetry in so many different beautiful voices, from Lemn Sissay’s charismatic clarity to Alice Oswald’s carefully placed voice-prints. The event that looks perhaps the most exciting to me is the See How I Land reading at 4pm on Saturday. It is always interesting to watch a group of writers responding to a single theme in different ways, based on different experiences, and this theme is such a vital and emotive one. It will be an amazing opportunity to hear a diverse selection of poets - and you get to take a book home, too! 

 

So, where will you be this weekend? Join us in Woodstock! 


Kate Asquith

Kate Asquith

Kate Asquith was awarded the title of Cumbria Young Writer in 2015. This past year, she has been commended in the Martin Starkie Prize, published in the Failed Novelists’ anthology, and had her short poetic film screened at Mind Your Head’s art exhibition. Nowadays, she writes sporadic poetry and posts it on Instagram (@kateeasquith) for self-indulgent likes.

Mary Anne Clark

Mary Anne Clark

Mary Anne Clark is just beginning a DPhil in English at Merton College, Oxford. Her poems have appeared in The MaysThe KindlingOxford PoetryIRIS III, and several Emma Press anthologies. In 2016 she won the Newdigate Prize, and in 2018 she was runner-up for the Jon Stallworthy Prize.

Photo credit Naomi Woddis

Mary Jean Chan

Mary Jean Chan

Mary Jean Chan is a poet from Hong Kong. She was shortlisted for the 2016 London Magazine Poetry Prize, and won the 2016 Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition for her poem ‘Wet Nurse’ in the ESL category. Her work has been published in Oxford PoetryCallaloo Journal, Ambit Magazine,The Rialto, QLRS, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal and elsewhere. Mary Jean received the 2015 University of London MA Creative Writing Prize, and is currently a PhD candidate in Creative Writing (Poetry) at Royal Holloway, University of London. 

Stephen Durkan

Stephen Durkan

Stephen Durkan is a writer of fiction created in Glasgow and based in Oxford. He studies English Literature at the Department of Continuing Education. He has been published in Structo Magazine and was recently shortlisted for ‘Best Poem’ at the Martin Starkie Awards. He also writes articles for XXY Magazine and was a songwriter in a previous life. His aspiration is to usurp Will Self as the talking head the BBC calls upon next time the Novel is dying. If you want to ask him something, write to: stephendurkanwriter@gmail.com


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