suffolk poetry

Doty and Shihab Nye for The Poetry Prom 2015

We’re thrilled to announce this year’s line-up: two world-class US poets all set to appear on stage together for the first time at our 12th Poetry Prom in Snape Maltings Concert Hall this summer. Make sure you’re in Suffolk for the evening of Wednesday 26th August.

Mark Doty was the first American to win the TS Eliot Prize (1996) and is celebrated for bringing the experiences of gay men to a wider audience, showing ‘how we live, how we suffer and transcend suffering.’ His soon-to-be published ninth collection Deep Lane extends his characteristic focus, searching for solace and cure in the soil, plants, animals, and above all in the relationships and love between people.
A dazzling, tactile grasp of the world. New York Times

Palestinian-American Naomi Shihab Nye is a passionate cross-cultural ambassador whose engaging grounded poems are a call for peace and international goodwill in these troubled times. The job of poetry is, she believes, ‘to give us a sense of each other’s lives close up.’ The new edition of her Selected Poems: Tender Spot – published to coincide with the Poetry Prom in August – strives for insights and harmony in universal narratives of family and neighbours, everyday conflicts and resolutions.
Tender yet forceful, funny and commonsensical, reflective and empathetic. Publishers Weekly

Mark read last at Aldeburgh Poetry Festival in 2002, and Naomi made her UK debut at Aldeburgh in 2006. They love one another’s work and are pretty much as excited as we are at the prospect of this iconic summer reading. Look out for news of when tickets go on sale (some time in May) in future editions of STUFF.

1_doty_nyeMark Doty & Naomi Shihab Nye (Photographer, Ha Lam)


Helen Mort In Suffolk This March

We’re very much looking forward to welcoming Helen Mort, our most recent Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection winner, to Suffolk at the end of March. She’ll be here for her week’s protected writing time – one of the unique and most valuable features of the Prize. Helen has won many awards throughout her writing life, not least because she started young, setting a record as a five times winner of the Foyle Young Poets Award. She’s moved up the ranks at Aldeburgh too – attending the Aldeburgh Advanced Seminar (now the Aldeburgh Eight) in 2009 and taking part in the Festival Masterclass led by Jamie McKendrick that same year. Then in 2011 as one of the New Voices, she read alongside Emily Berry, Hannah Lowe and Sam Riviere. And of course she’ll be back in Suffolk this autumn as one of the main poets on the 27th Aldeburgh Poetry Festival programme (6-8 November 2015). We’ll be interviewing Helen next month, so you can look forward to a new podcast later in the spring. In the meantime, here’s a poem from Division Street, her brilliant first collection.

The lives you have in other people’s dreams
are lives no less. Tonight, for instance,
you are kissing the proprietor of SPARin a store room full of oranges. A school friend
has you kneeling in a layby of a mountain pass
grappling with the front tyre of a truck,and though your hair is jet black for disguise,
you are the photographer in your mother’s
nightmare, angling the camera at her door.Each morning, you must gather up these lives
and hold them tight, walk carefully downstairs,
slow as the girl in your own brief dreamwho clutched a dozen long-stemmed roses
to her dress, until they merged
into a bloodstain on her ruined breast.

Helen Mort
Division Street (Chatto & Windus 2013)

2_masterclass_mortHelen Mort (left) with Catherine Ormell and Meryl Pugh at Jamie McKendrick’s Masterclass at Aldeburgh Poetry Festival 2009

Ellen McAteer Update

I’ve very much been enjoying living in Halesworth and being able to cycle to the surrounding villages. Mat and the kids have been enjoying it here too – they are mad about the beach at Aldeburgh – and we joined the RSPB at Minsmere. The boys are now keen birdwatchers, and I’ve got the bug too, after seeing a kingfisher on the river Blyth, and a continuing email conversation with the poet John Burnside about the bird song that seems to fill this county. They say a kingfisher signals peace and prosperity – I sincerely hope so; prosperity is something The Poetry Trust could certainly do with if we are to achieve everything we want in 2015 and beyond! I seem to have spent my first month writing funding applications, and of course talking to the wonderful donors, volunteers and local companies who support us. We could not sustain the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival without such goodwill, and it has been lovely to find such a core of friends here in Suffolk. Of course, auld acquaintance is not forgot – I travel up regularly to touch base with projects like the Glasgow poetry bookshop, which ran a popular fundraising event for the Scottish Poetry Library, and of course StAnza, our sister poetry festival in St Andrews, which I’m looking forward to attending the launch of next week. We’ve been deep in Poetry Prom and APF plans, and recruiting a new tutor and board members, of which more to follow. It’s been a very busy and exciting first month at The Poetry Trust. Bring on the next!



26th Aldeburgh Poetry Festival Feedback

Thank you once again to all those who filled in the Audience Survey last year. A healthy 36% dutifully and generously completed the comprehensive list of questions and the result is three consecutive years of comparable data – i.e. since the Festival expanded to Snape – which is invaluable for funding applications and also lets us know where we’re going right (or wrong). Here are some headline stats in case you like this sort of thing:

  • 48% travelled more than two hours
  • 21% were first time attenders
  • 24% had been to the Festival four times or more
  • 60% attended six or more events
  • 87% bought books from the bookshop
  • Suggestions for improving the Festival focused on catering, the provision of more social / relaxation space, and a more regular/timely shuttle bus service.

Our ‘typical’ audience member appears to be a female Guardian/Observer reader who likes The Poetry Review and The Rialto, has Facebook and Twitter accounts, and lives in East Anglia. So what does she look like, we wonder…? Pictures on a postcard, please!



Benka & Pickard On The Poetry Channel

Now available – two new podcasts harvested from last November’s Aldeburgh Poetry Festival.

Aldeburgh Backchat: Jen Benka
Jen Benka, the Executive Director of the Academy of American Poets, talks about the balance between her day job and her creative life as a poet, the unlikely origins of the Academy and the challenges in the digital age for poetry.

Aldeburgh Backchat: Tom Pickard
North-east icon Tom Pickard on co-founding the legendary Morden Tower readings in Newcastle and being mentored by Basil Bunting, and the inspiration of oppression and the best way to deal with anger in poetry.

Listen or download now, either from The Poetry Trust’s new SoundCloud or at The Poetry Channel



New Tutor For The Aldeburgh Eight

Since 2007 the Aldeburgh Eight (formerly the Aldeburgh Advanced Seminar) has provided an annual intensive, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for emerging poets – 56 of whom have now benefitted from working with co-tutors Michael Laskey and Peter Sansom. After turning 70 last year, Michael announced his decision to step down and following much thought (and liaising with Peter and Michael too) we are now delighted to announce that Jackie Wills will be the Aldeburgh Eight’s new co-tutor in 2015.

Jackie has published six collections, most recently Woman’s Head As Jug (Arc 2014). Her first Powder Tree (Arc 1995) was both a PBS Recommendation and shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize. A Royal Literary Fund Fellow 2009-12, she’s led schools and public courses for Arvon and her numerous residencies include one at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival in 2004. She has also been guest co-editor for The North and has reviewed for Poetry Wales and Warwick Review and Mslexia magazines. She has also returned to Aldeburgh as a member of the Festival audience – including last November – and she is delighted and excited to be co-tutoring the Aldeburgh Eight with Peter Sansom this autumn.

Applications for the Aldeburgh Eight Advanced Seminar (6 – 13 November 2015) will open in March. More details in next month’s STUFF.


Photographer, Giya Makondo-Wills

Naomi’s Last Word

‘It’s the end of February and, amazingly, I’ve managed to file my (thousands of) emails, clear my (groaning with paper mountains) desk, box up my (way too many) books and unpack (as best I can) the contents of my head in a series of non-stop handover conversations. Obviously it takes leaving The Poetry Trust after 22 years to have a good tidy up. Irony aside, though, and with a shameless disregard for clichés – I’ll also be taking with me countless wonderful memories and a life enriched by running the best poetry festival ‘on this planet, in our time’ (Thomas Lux’s words, not mine) and listening to and meeting many incredible poets who are often pretty special human beings too. The list is way too long to name names (nearly 500 poets have read at Aldeburgh since it started) but I shall go to my grave with particular gratitude to my favourite Americans for so many arresting and memorable poems. Most of all I treasure Philip Levine who has been in all our thoughts with the news of his death earlier this month. What an exceptional man – deeply moral, wickedly funny, loyal, generous, fabulously good company – and just the bestpoet. My thanks to all the poets, and my thanks to you too, for being simply the best readers and audiences poetry could wish for.’

Listen to Naomi’s Q&A with Philip Levine from Aldeburgh Poetry Festival 2009


Naomi with Philip Levine at the 2009 Aldeburgh Poetry Festival
Photographer, Peter Everard Smith


Poetry Trust events coming up

Other STUFF you might like

Jewish Poetry & Poets, Sunday 1 March
Shirat Ha-am (Song of the People) will include many leading Jewish voices including Aldeburgh Poetry Festival 2010 poets Elaine Feinstein and Bernard Kops. Tickets: £12, families £30 includes lunch and tea. Venue: The Liberal Jewish Synagogue, London NW8.
More details

StAnza 2015: 4-8 March
Now in its 18th year, among the headline poets at Scotland’s Poetry Festival in 2015 are Simon Armitage, Ian Duhig, Paul Durcan, Carolyn Forché, Ilya Kaminsky, Glynn Maxwell, Kei Miller and Sinéad Morrissey. Readings, performances, discussions and poetry-inspired installations and exhibitions. Always worth a trip to St Andrews.
More details

Next Generation Poets
Next Generation Poets 2014 tour, with events in Nottingham, Oswestry, Manchester, Ely, Winchester, Keats House, Bristol, Belfast, Newcastle and Norwich. There will also be a celebration at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London on 15 March with all 20 poets invited to read.
More details

Wonderful Beast in Aldeburgh, Saturday 14 March
A day and evening of ‘Tales from the Tower’ on Aldeburgh beach, with the legendary tale-spinner TUUP who made such an impact in Wonderful Beast’s Storm of Stories festival last year. Tickets £20.
For more information please email or visit the website.

The Rialto Nature Poetry Competition: last call
Last chance to enter! Closing date midnight on 1 March 2015. As well as offering poets publication of their poems and the chance to win considerable cash prizes – first prize £1000, second prize £500, third prize a place on a Creative Writing Course at Ty Newydd – the competition will raise money for conservation. Judge: Simon Armitage.
More details

The 2015 Wigtown Poetry Competition
Open to entries from ‘throughout and outside the UK’, online or by post. First prize £1500, runner-up £400, plus eight additional prizes of £25. Judge: Jim Carruth. Deadline: Friday 29th May.
More details


imajaz artwork for web and print