In this episode of The Writing Life podcast, NCW CEO Peggy Hughes speaks to four dazzling voices in contemporary poetry.
On Wednesday 22 November, Jay Bernard, Anthony Vahni Capildeo, Gail McConnell and Joelle Taylor gathered to celebrate the launch of exciting new poetry archive collection, ‘Towards a Centre for Contemporary Poetry in the Archive’. This project, delivered by the British Archive for Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, is supported by the Mellon Foundation with partners the National Centre for Writing and Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service.
The project aims to promote and preserve the archives of contemporary poets of colour, LGBTQ+ poets and writers from other historically underrepresented backgrounds and practises in the UK and Ireland.
Together, they talk about the archival project, their individual contributions and creative processes. They discuss their understanding of their own work, and how poetry and spoken word can be archived. Visiting Poetry Fellow, Will Harris, joins them to explore the project.
Edited by Omni Mix
Jay Bernard is from London and works as a writer and film programmer at BFI Flare (London’s LGBT film festival). They are the author of three pamphlets, The Red and Yellow Nothing (2016), English Breakfast (2013), and Your Sign is Cuckoo, Girl (2008), and have been featured in numerous anthologies and magazines, including TEN: The New Wave and Out of Bounds: Black British Writers and Place. They were part of the original line-up for two ‘Speaking Volumes Breaking Ground’ tours to the USA, showcasing the best Black British writers from the UK. Jay was Poet-in-Residence at the George Padmore Institute in 2016, out of which came the poems for their upcoming collection, Surge (2019), based on the New Cross Fire of 1981 where 14 young black people lost their lives. Surge: Side A was produced by Speaking Volumes and performed at the Roundhouse as part of The Last Word Festival 2017.
Anthony (Vahni) Capildeo FRSL is Professor and Writer in Residence at the University of York. Their site-specific word and visual arts includes responses to Cornwall’s former capital, Launceston, as the Causley Trust Poet in Residence (2022) and to the Ubatuba granite of the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds (2023), as well as to Scottish, Irish, and Caribbean built and natural environments. Recent publications include Like a Tree, Walking (Carcanet, 2021) (Poetry Book Society Choice) and A Happiness (Intergraphia, 2022). Their interests include collaborative work, and traditional masquerade. Capildeo served as a judge for the Jhalak Prize (2023).
Will Harris is a London-based writer. He is the author of the poetry books RENDANG (2020) and Brother Poem (2023), both published by Granta in the UK and Wesleyan in the US. He has been shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. He co-edited the Spring 2020 issue of The Poetry Review with Mary Jean Chan. He helps facilitate the Southbank New Poets Collective with Vanessa Kisuule, and co-translated Habib Tengour’s Consolatio with Delaina Haslam in 2022. He was Visiting Poetry Fellow at UEA (2022-2023) as part of a project to build a community-led archive of poets’ work, and he currently works in the care sector.
Gail McConnell is a writer from Belfast. She is the author of The Sun is Open (Penned in the Margins, 2021), Northern Irish Poetry and Theology (Palgrave, 2014), and two pamphlets of poetry: Fothermather (Ink Sweat & Tears, 2019) and Fourteen (Green Bottle Press, 2018). Fothermather, an exploration of queer parenthood, was shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award and made into a programme for Radio 4. The Sun is Open won the The John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Award and The Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize. It was a Poetry Book of the Month in the Guardian and in The Observer, a book of the year in the TLS and The White Review, and a poetry book of the year in The Telegraph and The Irish Times.
Joelle Taylor is the author of 4 collections of poetry. Her most recent collection C+NTO & Othered Poems won the 2021 T.S Eliot Prize, and the 2022 Polari Book Prize for LGBT authors. C+NTO is currently being adapted for theatre with a view to touring. She is a co- curator and host of Out-Spoken Live at the Southbank Centre, and tours her work nationally and internationally in a diverse range of venues, from Australia to Brazil. She is also a Poetry Fellow of University of East Anglia and the curator of the Koestler Awards 2023. She has judged several poetry and literary prizes including Jerwood Fellowship, the Forward Prize, and the Ondaatje Prize. Her novel of interconnecting stories The Night Alphabet will be published by Riverrun in Spring of 2024. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and the 2022 Saboteur Spoken Word Artist of the Year. Her most recent acting role was in Blue by Derek Jarman, which was directed by Neil Bartlett and featured Russell Tovey, Jay Bernard, and Travis Alabanza. Blue sold out its run across the UK and more dates are expected for the future.
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