Poetry as Protest

English PEN and Ledbury Poetry Festival join forces to support persecuted poets

On Sunday 5 July, PEN and LPF are also hosting a special discussion on poets, poetry, protest and politics, with poets George Szirtes and Sabrina Mahfouz and English PEN’s Director Jo Glanville, chaired by Ursula Owen.

English PEN, a charity that supports the freedom to read and write, is delighted to be partnering with the Ledbury Poetry Festival (LPF), the UK’s biggest poetry festival, on ‘Poetry as Protest’.

Every year, hundreds of writers and other literary professionals around the world are imprisoned, prosecuted, persecuted, attacked, threatened, forced into exile or even murdered as a result of their work. A significant proportion of these writers are believed to have been detained or otherwise persecuted in relation to their poetry.

Throughout this year’s Ledbury Poetry Festival, poets including Simon Armitage, John Burnside and Shazea Quraishi will be taking part in ‘Poetry as Protest’, a joint initiative to highlight the many poets currently persecuted around the world. By pairing these writers with poets speaking at Ledbury we seek to give a voice to those whom others have sought to silence.

Among the poets whose work will be read are Cameroonian writer and activist Enoh Meyomesse who was finally released from prison in April 2015 after more than three years in prison on politically motivated charges; poet and artist Liu Xia, the wife of imprisoned Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo, currently under house arrest in China; and Mahvash Sabet, a teacher, poet and Baha’i leader who is serving a 20-year prison sentence in Iran.

Jo Glanville, Director of English PEN, says:
For over 50 years, English PEN has sought to defend and support these writers and their families, to pressurise governments where the right to freedom of expression is under attack, and to help bring about the necessary changes to make the freedom to write a reality around the world. We are delighted to be joining forces with the UK’s biggest poetry festival to bring these writers and their work to new audiences.

Chloe Garner, Artistic Director of Ledbury Poetry Festival, says
Ledbury Poetry Festival is proud to support the excellent work English PEN is doing. That poets are imprisoned and worse because of what they write reminds us of the power of words. It is right that the Festival offers a space where the voices of these poets can be heard.

Sabrina Mahfouz  Simon Armitage   Shazea Quraishi  Burnside, John