2019 Festival headliners

We are pleased to tell you the poets already confirmed for the 2019 Festival!

Friday 5 – Sunday 14 July

One of Canada’s finest poets, Margaret Atwood, will appear on the second weekend of the 2019 Ledbury Poetry Festival. Margaret Atwood will appear in two events one on Saturday 13 July, the other on Sunday 14 July. She will give a poetry reading and she will also chat about her favourite poems with her former publisher Ursula Owen. With thanks to special sponsor The University of Worcester

Festival highlights include Roger McGough, who has not read at Ledbury since 2009. He will launch the Festival on Friday 5 July with a reading from his new collection, Joined Up Writing, published in March 2019. Best-selling Scottish writer Ali Smith is appearing on the second weekend of the Festival to share her best-loved poems in what is bound to be a unique and fascinating event.

American author Ilya Kaminsky will appear on the first weekend of the Festival. If you have not yet discovered this poet, you are in for a treat. Born in Odessa in 1977, his family emigrated to the USA in 1993. Jane Hirschfield writes, “Kaminsky is truly a descendant of Odysseus, after whom his birth city was named, and his poems reflect both Odyssean wanderings and the liberation of mind that opens the way to craft. Inventiveness of language, the investigative passion, praises, lamentation, and a proper sense of the ridiculous are omnipresent. Kaminsky poems are wholly local yet unprovincial, intimate yet free of ego.”

Caribbean poet Ishion Hutchinson is another exciting addition to the programme. Published by Faber, he divides his time between the USA and Paris. Ledbury Poetry Festival is extremely lucky to be able to welcome him. This award-winning poet’s latest collection is Lords and Commons described as ‘exquisite’ (New Yorker), ‘breathtaking’ (Los Angeles Times), ‘baroque and moon-lit’ (Boston Globe).

Other highlights include Fiona Sampson reading with Phoebe Power on Sunday 7 July. Fiona Sampson’s poetry has received awards in the US, India, Macedonia and Bosnia, and is published in 37 languages. Her poetry shows an attention to sound and the visual presence of poetry on the page. Phoebe Power was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1993. She was named a Foyle Young Poet of the Year in 2009. Power’s full length poetry collection, Shrines of Upper Austria was awarded the Forward Poetry Prize for Best First Collection 2018 and was named one of four Poetry Book Society Spring Recommendations for 2018 and was shortlisted for the 2018 T. S. Eliot Prize Chinese poet Yu Youyou reads with A K Blakemore on Sunday 7 July. Born in 1990, Sichuanese poet Yu Youyou is seen as a representative voice among the post-90’s generation, especially known for her mature voice and subtle treatment of modern femininity. Brutal and tender, earnest, erotic and impetuous, A.K. Blakemore’s poetry (b 1991) has earned her a following and a fierce reputation. With themes of youth, sex, drugs, drink, violence, womanhood and intimacy, her writing is direct and defiant.

Confirmations are still coming in: Alexei Sayle (Thursday 11 July), Eleanor Bron (Tuesday 9 July), conference days on Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Monday 8 July) and Brecht (Wednesday 10 July)Andrew MotionHannah Sullivan (both Saturday 13 July), Simon Armitage (Sunday 14 July), plus a Translation Duel (Saturday 6 July), Poetry Slam (Saturday 13 July), and Community and Street Events throughout the whole 10 days!

Finally, make sure you keep the evening of Saturday 6 July free. You may not have heard of The Indelicates, but their re-imagining of The Book of Job at the Festival in 2016 was one of the most memorable and enjoyable things I have seen! Their new theatrical and musical extravaganza is Paradise Rocks: Elvis meets Milton in a Hawaiian paradise of song. Expect an entertaining, inventive and intelligent re-working of Paradise Lost and a great Saturday night out! I cannot recommend this event highly enough.

PROGRAMMES OUT EARLY MAY 2019. Want a programme sent to you?  Please SUBSCRIBE here

From Festival Artistic Director, Chloe Garner