Poetry Swindon
​​Poetry Swindon started in September 2008 as a group dedicated to helping poetry thrive in Swindon. Originally known as BlueGate Poets, its early meetings were in the sitting room of the Richard Jefferies Museum, with the name and logo inspired by the little arched gate of the old farm house. It seems fitting that the place is now our proper home.
Our mission at Poetry Swindon is simple: to encourage an appreciation of poetry. We do this by developing new audiences; encouraging all kinds of poetry to be written and read; and supporting people’s poetry interests in whatever way that works for them. We organize events and publications (including the festival), hopefully giving rise to new opportunities, and engaging an ever-growing number of people, of all ages and backgrounds.
At our heart we have a friendly ethos, welcoming all who read, perform, write, or engage in poetry in any way, and enhancing the life of poetry in Swindon. We’d love you to join in with us - enjoy more poetry, read more poetry, and be part of buzz that is Swindon’s poetry scene… it only exists because of you - our energized, passionate, and wonderful poetry people.​
Poetry Swindon Festival 2017
“We have to reach out our hands and create generous spaces.”
Malika Booker, Battered Moons Judge 2017

Space. A poetic frontier. We, as poets, are fascinated with space: where we put words on the page; the space around words; spaces for our books… But we’re also fascinated with the spaces where we read, write, listen to, and enjoy our poetry.
Here in Swindon, we have found that our spiritual home, the Richard Jefferies Museum, is the perfect space for us to fill – literally and verbally. We have improved some rooms, and procured a bigger, better Tent-Palace of the Delicious Air, so the space-filling talents of our performers can be enjoyed by bigger audiences. Other spaces will help us in our aim to make poetry accessible, with ‘Poems Aloud’ launching the festival in Artsite’s town-centre gallery, and a varied programme at New College on Thursday to ensure young talent has access to high quality poetry.
We’ve made space for people to be heard too, with three open mic sessions reflecting the world we want, through the themes of strange, happy, magic; while our workshops will develop writers’ voices to fill spaces in ever better ways.
This year, we are delighted to have two wonderfully friendly poets-in-residence Tania Hershman and Daljit Nagra, to enrich us with their many talents. Also, to help us reach out into cyber-space, we have our blogger, Jacqueline Saphra; while artist, Jill Carter, will be on hand to record our spaces in unique visual ways.
We’ve crammed a lot in, and it’s all going to be amazing, we’re sure. We are proud of our poetry space here in Swindon, and we welcome you all here to share it.

Sam Loveless and the Poetry Swindon Team
Ticket Sales
To book tickets:
Online: click on the button next to the event details (not available on mobiles)
Box office: Wyvern Theatre or Swindon Arts Centre  
For information:
Telephone: 01793 979224 or 07768 917466
Email: info@richardjefferies.org


Richard Jefferies Museum, Marlborough Rd, Coate, Swindon SN3 6AA

01793 979224 or 07768 917466

Sun Inn (next door to museum), Marlborough Rd, Coate, Swindon SN3 6AA

01793 523292

Holiday Inn (opposite museum), Marlborough Rd, Coate, Swindon SN3 6AQ

0871 942 9079

Artsite, Number Nine Gallery, Theatre Square, Swindon SN1 1QN

New College
New College Drive, Swindon SN3 1AH
www.newcollege.ac.uk 01793 611470  

Daljit Nagra
Our first poet-in-residence this year is Daljit Nagra. Daljit is the inaugural poet-in-residence for Radio 4 and 4 Extra, and among his other duties, he presents Poetry Extra, a weekly programme on Radio 4 Extra. He has published three collections of poetry, all with Faber & Faber. His latest collection, British Museum, was published by Faber & Faber, in May. He is a Senior Lecturer of Creative Writing at Brunel University London.
Daljit comes from a Sikh background, his parents coming to Britain from the Punjab, India, in the late 1950s. Daljit was born and grew up in West London, then Sheffield. His pamphlet, Oh My Rub! was a Smith/Doorstop winner and was the Poetry Book Society’s first ever Pamphlet Choice in 2003. His poem Look We Have Coming to Dover! won the Forward Prize for Best Individual Poem in 2004. His first collection, of the same name won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2007 and the South Bank Show Decibel Award in 2008, in addition it was nominated for several other prizes including the Coast Poetry Prize. His subsequent two collections, Tippoo Sultan’s Incredible White-Man Eating Tiger-Toy Machine!!! and his version of the Ramayana were nominated for the TS Eliot Prize. In 2014 he was selected as a New Generation Poet by the PBS. In 2015 he won a Royal Society Travelling Scholarship.
He has judged many prizes including The Samuel Johnson Prize, The Costa Prize, the David Cohen Prize, the National Poetry Competition. His poems have been published in The New Yorker, Poetry Chicago, The LRB, The TLS and The New Statesman. He has written for The Guardian, The Financial Times and he has performed his work in Britain and abroad in Canada, India, Mexico, Slovakia, The Netherlands.

Tania Hershman
Our second poet-in-residence is Tania Hershman. Her debut poetry collection, Terms & Conditions, was published by Nine Arches Press in July and her third short story collection, Some Of Us Glow More Than Others, by Unthank Books in May. Tania is also the author of a poetry chapbook, and two short story collections, and co-author of Writing Short Stories: A Writers’ & Artists’ Companion (Bloomsbury, 2014).

Tania is curator of ShortStops (www.shortstops.info), celebrating short story activity across the UK & Ireland and she is currently completing a PhD in Creative Writing inspired by particle physics.

Jacqueline Saphra

Jacqueline Saphra is our blogger for the festival. Her work includes The Kitchen of Lovely Contraptions (flipped eye, 2011), nominated for The Aldeburgh First Collection Prize, and If I Lay on my Back I saw Nothing but Naked Women, (The Emma Press 2014), which won Best Collaborative Work at the Saboteur Awards 2015. All My Mad Mothers was published by Nine Arches Press in May 2017 and A Bargain with the Light: Poems after Lee Miller is due from Hercules Editions in September 2017.

 Jill Carter
We are also thrilled this year to have Jill Carter as our artist in residence, making art inspired by the events of the festival. Jill is a contemporary fine artist, specialising in mixed media, who creates the most amazing, thought-provoking images, items and installations, using her varied talents, and just about any other thing she can lay her hands on.

Thursday 5th October
10:00 to 12:00 POEMS ALOUD Artsite, Number Nine Gallery, Theatre Square, Swindon
‘I celebrate myself, and sing myself’ Walt Whitman
Come and share some favourite poems, or your own work, to launch the Poetry Swindon Festival. Hosted by Hilda Sheehan & Maurice Spillane, it will be a warm and friendly gathering, with The Poetry Pram out and about too.


10:30 to 12:00 POETRY RHYME TIME RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
You are invited to meet Custard the Dragon, The Owl and the Pussy Cat, and many more famous poetry friends. A fun and animated poetry rhyme time with music and movement for under 5’s, with arts & crafts with Suzie, and poetry with Hilda.
£2 per child (subsequent children £1)

14:00 to 15:00 POETRY FILMS Artsite, Number Nine Gallery, Theatre Square, Swindon
Join us to discover how poetry film can offer a rich and visceral experience. Poetry Film Live editors, Chaucer Cameron and Helen Dewbery will present a dazzling selection of international poetry films.

16:00 to 17:00 POETRY LECTURE RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
In this special lecture, From The Supernatural To The Surreal, Christopher Eddy, philosopher and poet, traces the journey from the one to the other in poems by W.B.Yeats and Dylan Thomas.

17:30 to 18:30 V FORMATION – POETS of V. PRESS RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
A celebration of three new and exciting voices in British poetry: Stephen Daniels, Gram Joel Davies and Nina Lewis.
Stephen Daniels is the editor of Amaryllis Poetry and Strange Poetry websites. His debut pamphlet Tell Mistakes I Love Them was published in 2017 by V. Press. Gram Joel Davies lives in Devon and his pamphlet, Bolt Down This Earth was V. Press’ Forward Prize nominee for 2017. Nina Lewis is Worcestershire Poet Laureate and her debut pamphlet Fragile Houses was published by V. Press in 2016.

20:00 to 21:30 READINGS RJ Museum Tent-Palace
Daljit Nagra, Tania Hershman & Jacqui Saphra, our resident poets, perform from their
new work and most recent collections. Plus music from young singer and poet Olivia Tuck.

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Friday 6th October
10:00 to 12:00 WORKSHOP: Liberation Through Constraint Sun Inn 
With Tania Hershman
Sometimes, imposing constraints can actually set your writing free. We will experiment with various ways to restrict yourself, playing with form, content and length - and seeing what results!


10:00 to 12:00 WORKSHOP: The Dynamic Poem Holiday Inn 
With Daljit Nagra
Poems can sometimes seem flat and lack vigour, they can drift along in a dreamy mood without any conviction. Daljit will explore with examples from contemporary poetry how to put the fizz back into a poem. Participants should expect to have attempted at least one new lively poem!


13:00 to 14:00 OPEN MIC – Strange Days RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
‘There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion.’ Edgar Allan Poe
Read us poems that don’t see straight. Poems that bounce, poems that are unflat, poems that pretend to be other things…or just bring us your anything strange! With special guest readings from Rachael Clyne & Jinny Fisher.
Spaces limited. Please email hilda@richardjefferies.org to book a reading slot.


14:30 to 16:30 COATE WATER POETRY RAMBLE RJ Museum Garden 
Starting by the Mulberry Tree, take a voyage of discovery to Coate Water with poet Sarah L. Dixon - expect to be surprised, exercised, and poetised!


17:00 to 18:00 READINGS RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
Poke into the poetry box! Treasures of the heart, inca-named stardust, and various severed body parts! An hour of humour and water with Sue Rose, Emma Simon and Simon Williams.
Emma Simon won the Prole Laureate poetry competition in 2013 and loss, love & severed body parts scatter through her first collection Dragonish (The Emma Press). Simon Williams latest collection, Inti, was published in July. Sue Rose is the author of three poetry collections. Heart Archives was published by Hercules Editions in 2014.


20:00 to 21:00 POETRY PRIMERS RJ Museum Tent-Palace
The 2016 nationwide Primers scheme of The Poetry School & Nine Arches Press discovered the talents of Ben Bransfield, Cynthia Miller and Marvin Thompson.
Ben Bransfield was named a Teacher Trailblazer by the Poetry Society in 2015. Cynthia Miller is a Malaysian-American poet, currently part of Room 204, Writing West Midlands’ creative development programme for emerging writers. Marvin Thompson’s poems/sequences have appeared in a number of magazines.

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Saturday 7th October
10:00 to 12:00 WORKSHOP: Blurred Boundaries RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
With Tania Hershman
Some poems are also fictions; some stories are also poems. Where does one end and the other begin? We will take a wander through this fuzzy territory, from poem to short story and the weird and wonderful in between.


10:00 to 12:00 WORKSHOP: Being ‘Political’ Holiday Inn 
With Daljit Nagra
Some poems can hit you over the head with their political rage, or they can try to persuade you to their vision as the best way ahead. Explore with Daljit some ways in which poetry can deal with contemporary issues but with complexity and subtlety. Participants should expect to have tried to write their own poems of witness in the session.


13:00 to 14:00 OPEN MIC: Happiness RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
‘Oh god it’s wonderful to get out of bed, drink too much coffee...and love you so much.’

Frank O’Hara
This open mic aims to have everyone leaving the tent palace with a smile on their face. Bring us your joys and your gleefulness. Feel like the sun is shining, even if it’s raining! With special guest readings from Marilyn Hammick & John Mills.
N.B. Spaces limited. Please email hilda@richardjefferies.org to book a reading slot.


14:30 to 15:30 POETS & PUBLISHERS RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
Discussions led by poet Carrie Etter with two prominent poetry editors, Amy Wack and Mary Jean Chan. Come and join a discussion about what it takes to get published.
Carrie Etter is a Reader in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Her most recent collection, Imagined Sons (Seren, 2014), was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award in New Work in Poetry by The Poetry Society.
Since 1990, American expatriate Amy Wack has edited Seren Books’ multi-prizewinning poetry list. Her own poems have appeared in various journals, most recently a 12-part poem inspired by feral cats in Spain in Long Poem Magazine.
Mary Jean Chan, from Hong Kong, is shortlisted for the 2017 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem and is Co-Editor at Oxford Poetry. Her work has been published in The Poetry Review, Ambit, The Rialto, The London Magazine, Callaloo Journal.

16:00 to 17:00 MAD & GLOW RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
Mad & Glow are Jacqueline Saphra and Tania Hershman, but they refuse to tell who is who. However, they do promise to entertain you with brazen stories in poem and prose from each and both; a confederacy of words from a world that contains mad mothers and glowing jellyfish, kisses and war, salt, light and a few waterlilies.


19:00 to 21:00 BATTERED MOONS RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
With Malika Booker
Battered Moons 2017 will be celebrating seven winning poets and their poems, with dazzling poet Malika Booker handing out the prizes and reading from her own work. Malika is a Douglas Caster Cultural Fellow at the University of Leeds and chair of the Forward Prizes for Poetry 2016. Her Malika’s Poetry Kitchen has inspired models from Delhi to Chicago.
The evening will include a musical treat brought by the outstanding voice of Caitlin Eastham and her band.


21:30 ‘til late LATE NIGHT TOAST SPECIAL RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
Keith James in concert - The Songs of Leonard Cohen
With a lifetime reputation of performing and an undying love of the ‘pure song’ Keith James gives you a concert of Cohen’s amazing material in the most intimate and sensitive way imaginable, exposing the solitary inner strength of his greatest songs in their original perfect form.
‘Some of the most atmospheric and emotive music you will ever hear.’
The Independent


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Sunday 8th October
10:00 to 12:00 WORKSHOP: Call and Response Sun Inn 
With Rishi Dastidar
We’ve all been to workshops where we’ve been inspired by other poems, maybe visual art too, and then written in response to them. So what happens when we use pop songs instead? That’s the simple premise behind ‘Call and Response’, where some great music will hopefully provide great inspiration for writing poems. Just bring some paper, pencils – and your ears.
Rishi Dastidar is a fellow of The Complete Works, a consulting editor at The Rialto magazine, a member of the Malika’s Poetry Kitchen collective. His debut collection, Ticker-tape, is published by Nine Arches Press.


10:00 to 12:00 WORKSHOP: Relaxation & the Arts RJ Museum Attic 
With Jacci Bulman
A workshop made for relaxing! We will follow a simple, powerful deep relaxation technique, using images of peace from your own mind, to allow ourselves to deeply relax and feel peace, love and light inside ourselves. Following on from this feeling of inner calm we will enjoy some creative arts, writing poetry and thoughts inspired by our deep relaxation.
Please bring a warm blanket and possibly a mat if you would like to lie down.

10:30 to 12:00 CHILDREN’S OPEN MIC TALENT SHOW RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
With A. F. Harrold
A morning of poetry play and fun for children under 11 years, presented by Milo age 10 and A.F. Harold. With Special Guest Young Poet Sophie Daniels. Come along with a poem, a song or a story - one you have created yourself, or a favourite!
A.F. Harrold is the author of the hilarious Fizzlebert Stump series, the award-winning book The Imaginary and the children’s poetry collections I Eat Squirrels and Things You Find In A Poet’s Beard (illustrated by Chris Riddell). He is well known for his energetic and silly performances where almost anything can happen. Expect poems, jokes, beards and nonsense, and maybe a snippet of his brand new book, Greta Zargo and the Death Robots from Outer Space.
£3 per child (Adults £5)

13:30 to 14:30 READINGS RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
With Rishi Dastidar, Jessica Mookherjee & Camilla Nelson
Transgressions and experiments of three daring poets who tread where it doesn’t seem safe or sane, and so manage to open our eyes and ears to the real pulse of the present.
If you were unable to get to Rishi Dastidar ‘s workshop in the morning, this is your chance to hear from his debut collection, Ticker-tape.
Camilla Nelson is a language artist, researcher and collaborator. Her current work is Apples & Other Languages, published by Knives Forks and Spoons.
Jessica Mookherjee is a poet of Bengali origin. Her first collection, Darshan will be published by Cultured Llama in 2018.

15:00 to 16:00 OPEN MIC – Magic RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
‘I believe reality is approximately 65% if. All rivers are full of sky. Waterfalls are in the mind. We all come from slime.’ Dean Young
Can you pull a poem out of hat? Join in as poetry is conjured from every beautiful mind. With special guest readings from Kathy Gee & Liz Mills - once upon a time Kathy was a museum curator, so for quite a while she wrote about ‘stuff’ and what we leave behind. Liz has written and acted all her life but only started writing poetry last summer.
N.B. Spaces limited. Please email hilda@richardjefferies.org to book a reading slot.

16:30 to 17:30 READINGS RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
With Melissa Lee-Houghton, Daniel Sluman & Alex Josephy
Intense and exacting reading from three of Britain’s rawest readers.
Melissa Lee-Houghton was named a Next Generation Poet 2014 for Beautiful Girls. Her latest book, Sunshine (Penned in the Margins, 2016) saw her shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award, Ted Hughes Award and Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.
Daniel Sluman is a poet and disability rights activist based in Oxfordshire. He was named one of Huffington Post’s Top 5 British Poets to Watch in 2015. His debut collection Absence has a weight of its own was released by Nine Arches Press in 2012.
Alex Josephy lives in London and Italy. She has been a student and teacher of poetry all her life and leads a poetry reading group in East London. Her poems have been published widely in magazines and anthologies.

20:00 ‘til late FESTIVAL FINALE RJ Museum Tent-Palace 
With Mab Jones, A. F. Harold, Edward Day, Inua Elams, and George Fell.
Tonight we celebrate the power of poetry in performance with some of Britain’s most exciting voices coming together, with fantastic music to polish everything off. Prepare to be dazzled!
Rather than the creator of Death Robots from Outer Space, expect the A. F. Harrold who started in a Blackwell’s bookshop in the late 1990s, before going on to becoming a full-time poet and workshop facilitator in the early 2000s.
Edward Day is a genderfluid poet and theatre maker. Performing in a wild, theatrical style, Edward reimagines daily life in many fantastical ways, from having the powers of a Jedi, to food growing knots inside him.
Mab Jones’ newest collection, Take your experience and peel it, is published by Indigo Dreams. Her first collection, Poor Queen, was published by Burning Eye Books. “Her best poems take my breath away.” - Gwyneth Lewis
Born in Nigeria, Inua Ellams is a cross art form practitioner, a poet, playwright & performer, graphic artist & designer and founder of the Midnight Run - an international, arts-filled, night-time, playful, urban, walking experience.
George Fell has been mesmerizing UK audiences with his instrumentals and arrangements for
almost a decade, originally developing his technique from early Blues and Country recordings,
and the guitar as a solo instrument.


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Monday 9th October
10:00 to 11:30  POETRY BRUNCHFAST & FAREWELL  RJ Museum Tent-Palace
The festival closes with final croissants and coffee and a few last, remarkable displays from our resident artists and poets. Join us for a lively goodbye, some poetry, coffee and free-range laughter as the tent-palace descends back into the van and we celebrate our 5th poetry festival.
£10 includes continental breakfast, and maybe bacon... and toast

A few last things...
As well as the main events, there will be a number of other things going on throughout the festival. So, look out for the Poetry Pram, as it delivers poetry to unsuspecting audiences; visit the sitting room for poetry films; peruse the art and poetry exhibition about Edward Thomas, in the gallery; enjoy the beautiful gardens; hunt down anyone in a Poetry Swindon T-shirt if you want or need anything; and do tell us what you think - we are always looking for ways to improve!

“I have been attending festivals as a poet for over 25 years, and this was surely the best I have seen, in terms of spirit, friendliness, audience engagement, and general sense of a poetry friendly environment.”
Todd Swift, Eyewear Publishing 

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