Edinburgh International Book Festival Online Themes: Poetry - The Art of the People

This year’s poetry series celebrates those poets whose collections work to fill in the gaps in our understanding of ourselves, our society and communities and our planet.

Edinburgh International Book Festival Online Themes: Poetry - The Art of the People

About Edinburgh International Book Festival Online Themes: Poetry - The Art of the People

In an interview for the New Stateman, former Young People’s Laureate for London, and author of the ‘landmark debut for British poetry’ Poor, Caleb Femi celebrated the writers, editors and publishers who work to make poetry accessible: ‘Because that’s its original mandate: poetry is the art of the people.’ Disillusioned with teaching a curriculum that ‘stifled creativity’, Femi devoted his time as Laureate to finding ‘ways to enable young people to say what’s on their mind, to be part of any conversation that they feel shut out from, to find commonality among themselves’. This year’s poetry series celebrates those poets whose collections work to fill in the gaps in our understanding of ourselves, our society and communities and our planet – embracing diversity and tearing down the barriers to inclusion in an artform too often viewed as ‘elitist’.

Kei Miller: Silence is Violence
Saturday 14 August 16:00 - 17:00
A few years ago, when asked what he sees when he looks at a map, Kei Miller answered ‘I see the things that aren’t there... maps are always interesting to me for what’s left out…’. These gaps and omissions were a key part of the celebrated poet and novelist’s Forward Prize-winning collection, The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion. Now he has collected together a series of essays, Things I Have Withheld, which examine the ways power can create silences, blind spots and cause stories to remain untold. Join Miller for a fascinating look at how the seemingly unsayable can often leave space for everyday acts of racism and prejudice.

Caleb Femi: Poet of the People
Sunday 15 August 14:30 - 15:30
'Caleb Femi is a gift to us all from the storytelling gods,' says fellow writer Max Porter. Femi’s exuberant words and talent saw him named as the first Young People’s Laureate for London in 2016, following his 2015 win at the Roundhouse Poetry Slam. Now his debut collection, Poor, has been called ‘a landmark debut for British poetry’. Join Femi as he talks to artist and novelist Tice Cin about community, photography, and why poetry is ‘the art of the people’.

Robin Robertson & Tim Robertson: Spirits of Scotland
Monday 16 August 14:30 - 15:30
In this event introduced by Jenny Brown, Robin performs his characteristically dark readings from the book while Tim Robertson creates accompanying drawings live on stage, his work unfolding on a large screen while Robin performs.

Salena Godden: Bringing Death to Life
Tuesday 17 August 16:00 - 17:00
Mrs Death Misses Death is the long-awaited debut novel by Salena Godden, one of Britain’s foremost poets, performers and activists. While death is an all-too real and familiar topic of conversation in the midst of a pandemic, this is a life-affirming tale that mixes prose and poetry and has already been optioned for film and TV.

Stories & Scran
Tuesday 17 August 20:30 - 21:30
This event is part of Citizen, our long-term creative programme working in partnership with organisations across Edinburgh and Musselburgh, offering local people a platform to explore identity, connection and place.

R-Words: Infectious Poetry for Everyone
Wednesday 18 August 10:00 - 11:00
This event is part of Citizen, our long-term creative programme working in partnership with organisations across Edinburgh and Musselburgh, offering local people a platform to explore identity, connection and place.

Carol Ann Duffy: ‘You Danced On the Road, Blowing Kisses’
Friday 20 August 10:00 - 11:00
Expect a richly emotional hour of love and familial longing with one of our finest and best-loved poets, with musical accompaniment by John Sampson.

Allen Fatimaharan & Hannah Lee: 99 Problems but a Beat Ain’t One
AGE 3+
Friday 20 August 11:15 - 11:30
Clap, snap and rap to the beat in this awesome event as the team behind My Hair presents their new picture book The Rapping Princess. Princess Shiloh cannot sing like all the other princesses, but does she have another talent? Author Hannah Lee helps you find your rhythm and groove in a high energy reading of her story, then illustrator Allen Fatimaharan shows you how he draws the funky princess herself. This hip, interactive event helps young MCs everywhere to have the confidence to find their own voice and dare to be different!

Meet the Makar: A Toast to Scotland’s New National Poet
Saturday 21 August 20:30 - 21:30
In today’s event - chaired by Freelance producer and director of Push the Boat Out poetry festival Jenny Niven - we welcome the newly-appointed Makar for a first Book Festival appearance in the prestigious role. We have a feeling it will be a familiar face on the Scottish poetry scene, but today we hear how the new Makar plans to make the role their own.

Songs from Scotland
Monday 23 August 20:30 - 21:30
In honour of Edwin Morgan’s centenary in 2020, the Edinburgh International Book Festival and Celtic Connections co-commissioned award-winning musician and composer Gavin Bryars to set five of Morgan’s poems to music. Bryars’s resulting composition, a stunning choral arrangement, receives its premiere in this extra special commemorative celebration, performed by Glasgow ensemble Cappella Nova. Guests including recipient of the Edwin Morgan Trust Poetry Award in 2020, Alycia Pirmohamed will also join the celebration. Bryars completes the line-up for this unique event, to give an insight into the journey he took to set Morgan to music.   

Max Porter: Pen Portraits
Tuesday 24 August 19:00 - 20:00
Max Porter has turned his attention to the last days of a famous British painter. The Death of Francis Bacon – somewhere between fiction and prose-poem – seeks not only to evoke the artist’s thoughts, but also to ‘write’ his paintings. It’s certainly not a biography of Bacon, but perhaps in imagining its way into the painter’s mind it tells as much about his art as a catalogue raisonné would. In what Stuart Kelly has called ‘a powerful stiletto of a book’, Porter has created an allusive, fragmentary and vividly poetic conversation which is sympathetic, intimate and at times very funny.

Reading Scotland: Jen Hadfield, Landscape and Light
Tuesday 24 August 20:30 - 22:00
Joining us from Shetland, Jen Hadfield has worked with Glasgow filmmaker Alison Piper to create a new short film based on the collection, which has its premiere at this evening's event as part of our Reading Scotland series, chaired by Scottish singer and songwriter Karine Polwart.

Kathleen Jamie, Peter Mackay & Don Paterson: Heavenly Scottish Poetry
Wednesday 25 August 17:30 - 18:30
Why has the heavenly nation of Scotland been a haven for poetic excellence for so long? The answers can be found in The Golden Treasury of Scottish Verse, a new anthology edited by three of its leading practitioners, Kathleen Jamie, Peter Mackay and Don Paterson. Containing over 300 poems ranging from the early medieval period to the 21st century, it includes verse by the likes of Robert Burns, Carol Ann Duffy, Sorley MacLean and Liz Lochhead. Joining us to discuss the reasons for their selection, Jamie, Mackay and Paterson also share some of the poems that represent major turning points for Scottish literature – and demonstrate the real reasons why Scotland has been the home of so many venerated poets.

John Agard & Piet Grobler: A Poem for Our Planet
AGE 7+
Friday 27 August 10:15 - 11:00
Join poet John Agard for a trip into the colourful jungle, with a reading from his glorious new picture book, where you get to meet a playful Coyote and leave with a powerful message about saving our planet. This book is packed with beautiful language, but also filled with fantastic creativity and you'll get a glimpse into some of the work that’s gone into creating it with two videos from the book’s illustrator Piet Grobler. In one of the videos Piet demonstrates some of the many mediums he used to make the images in the book, which include collage, print-making roller, drawing and painting. At the end, grab your pencils and paper for a draw-along with Piet, followed by a live Q&A with John himself chaired by Nadine Aisha Jassat.

Kayo Chingonyi: The Poetry of Existence
Saturday 28 August 17:30 - 18:30
Kayo Chingonyi: The Poetry of Existence
A Blood Condition is the Zambia-born writer’s second collection: it embodies the search for a poetic form that is true to his inheritance while also capable of being appreciated without stereotypical impressions of Blackness and ‘racial identity’. Chingonyi joins us to perform work that is sophisticated, profound and full of grace.

Michael Pedersen presents Good Grief!
Sunday 29 August 20:30 - 22:00
For one night only, prize-winning Edinburgh writer and Neu! Reekie! co-founder, Michael Pedersen presents some of his favourite voices from across literature and the arts. Celebrating with him is an all-star cast of writers and musicians: E A Hanks, Gemma Cairney, Rachel Sermanni, Hollie McNish, and Michael Mullen, who delivers a lustre-loaded salon-style waltz of poetry, prose and music, lighting a spark to make our way through the dark.

Playing with Books: The Yellow Door by Kathleen Jamie
Monday 30 August 17:30 - 19:00
Kathleen Jamie thinks not only of ‘the voice’ in her poetry and essays, but also of ‘listening and the art of listening… bringing the quality of attention to the world.’ Throughout 2021 she has been writing short, diary-like observations of what’s around her. As we have all gone online, she went offline into close observation of nature, of the experience of daily life, of family, of loss, anxiety, and hope. The result is a series of pieces which will stop you in your tracks; force you to switch off your device and look around. Jamie describes them as ‘prose-poems, letters, field-notes, poems and poem-notes.’ Could they be turned into theatre? David Greig, the Artistic Director of Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre, as well as a composer, choreographer, and a team of actors and musicians translate these extraordinary fragments for the stage and present them to an audience for the first time.

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