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Latitude - the Poetry Arena

Positioned enticingly by the banks of the lake at the entrance to the main festival arena, Latitude’s perfectly placed Poetry Arena is a wonderful den of distraction.

Poetry Arena

Positioned enticingly by the banks of the lake at the entrance to the main festival arena, Latitude’s perfectly placed Poetry Arena is a wonderful den of distraction. Curious passers-by are pulled inside by barrels of raucous laughter, pensive silences and fascinated faces, all transfixed by the raconteurs on stage. People find themselves camped out there all day, relaxing in the shade and enjoying a continuous line-up of the very best in comedy sketches, slam poets, spoken word, storytelling, rappers and much, much more. With a full schedule running throughout the whole weekend, Latitude welcomes the following funny, satirical, hard-hitting, absurd, bizarre and witty poets to the largest poetry event in Europe:

Current Poet Laureate, Professor, novelist, biographer and Andrew Motion makes a fantastic addition to the Poetry Arena with readings from his recent collection ‘The Cinder Path’ and a collection of essays ‘Ways Of Life: On Places, Painters and Poets’. Motion’s wealth of work has won many awards including: the Newdigate Prize at Oxford for his poem 'Inland'; The Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for ‘Dangerous Play: Poems 1974-1984’; the Dylan Thomas Award for ‘Natural Causes’ (1987); as well as winning the Whitbread Biography Award for his biographical novel ‘Philip Larkin: A Writer's Life’ (1993). The Guardian were quoted as saying “Motion is a beautiful lyricist unpretentiously and precisely describing those things worth having even as he casts unsettling shadows across them.”

Brian Patten made his name in the 1960s as one of the Liverpool Poets, alongside Adrian Henri and Roger McGough. Poetry that’s immediate and accessible; their joint anthology, ‘The Mersey Sound’ (1967), is often credited as the most significant anthology of the twentieth century for its success in bringing poetry to new audiences. Patten's ability to write and perform a powerful mix of serious and humorous work has made him one the country’s leading poets; his work includes ‘Vanishing Trick’ (1976) and ‘Love Poems’ (1981), which deal with the trials and tribulations of love; ‘Storm Damage’ (1988); and ‘Armada’ (1996), which include some of his most striking poems, focusing on the death of his mother and his memories of childhood. Patten’s ‘Selected Poems’ and ‘The Collected Love Poems’ were published in 2007 garnering the following quote from The Times “A magic ability to turn radiant imagination loose.”

Famed poet and novelist Jackie Kay will be bringing her ground-breaking poetry to Latitude Festival. Her award-winning work is most notable for her themes of cultural identity – drawing on her own life experiences. Her first collection of poems, ‘The Adoption Papers’ won a Scottish Arts Council Book Award, the Saltire Society Scottish First Book of The Year Award and a commendation by the Forward Poetry Prize judges in 1992. Since then she has delved into the complexities of language and identity with her collections of poems ‘Other Lovers’ (1993) – which earned her a Somerset Maugham Award; explored themes of sickness, health and disease (‘Off Colour’ 1998) and has written extensively for children. Her most recent collection ‘Darling, New And Selected Poems’ was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation.

Legendary poet, author and playwright Simon Armitage will be offering extracts from his prolific volume of work and selecting work from other poets, alive and dead. Armitage has written fifteen collections of poems earning him a wealth of awards including the Sunday Times Young Author of the Year, one of the first Forward Prizes and a Lannan Award. His recent collection, ‘Out Of The Blue’, published in 2008 consists of poems written in response to three anniversaries. They relate to three separate conflicts, including the poem/film ‘Out Of The Blue’ told from the point of view of a worker in the North Tower on 9/11, which also won a Royal Television Society Documentary Award in 2006. Armitage’s talents extend to writing for film, television, plays, song-writing and novels.

The ground-breaking Patience Agbabi is a leading female performance poet dealing with issues of race, gender, and sexual identity. Her debut collection ‘R.A.W’ won the 1997 Excelle Literary Award and she has since gone on to write and perform extensively both solo and collaborating with others. Her work is influenced by rap rhythms and wordplay and Agbabi was a member of Atomic Lip, "poetry's first pop group". Her book, ‘Transformatrix’, was published in 2000 and is a commentary on contemporary Britain which draws inspiration from popular music forms. In 2004 she was named as one of the Poetry Society's 'Next Generation' poets and is currently working on a third collection, ‘Bloodshot Monochrome’.

The true alternative laureate, 4Talent award winner and Aisle16 founder Luke Wright will be bringing his trademark tour de force performance poetry to Latitude Festival. He has been called “the best young performance poet around” by the Observer and “visceral, poignant and riotously funny” by the Scotsman. Wright brings poetry and satirical comedy together to shine a light on society’s idiocies and complexities; tackling themes of growing up (‘’Poet & Man’), love (TV film ‘Seven Ages Of Love’) and more recently the endless bad writing which bombards everyday life in his book ‘Who Writes This Crap’ co-written with Joel Stickely. Verbal and visual gags collide with an acerbic verse; Wright is one of the UK’s poetry heavyweights and he co-programmes the poetry bill and hosts it all at the festival!

An artist unaware of boundaries, anti-folk hero Jeffrey Lewis will perform a late night solo acoustic set in the Poetry Arena. In 2001 Jeff signed to Rough Trade records and has since released four albums. His 2005 album was named one of the best of the year by Time Out New York, The Boston Globe and CMJ Monthly. In 2007 Jeff released 12 Crass Songs, an album consisting entirely of songs written by the anarcho-pacifist British punk band Crass, reworked to match Jeffrey's anti-folk style. Rolling Stone magazine admitted this was “Weird? Very…but also downright inspiring.” Jeff is a renowned comic book artist, publishing his own comics. Issue 1 completely sold out of its first two printings and art work from the original pages of Jeff's comic were on display at the Spitz Gallery in London. Jeffrey Lewis can also be seen in the broadsheets…The Guardian website now hosts the New Jeffrey Lewis video podcasts: "TV show" and "Jeffrey Lewis And The News" which will feature weekly special guests as well as Jeff's illustrated/sung "News of the Week" reports. A songwriter, performer (with Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard), comic book author, poet and spoken word artist, Lewis is fast becoming the modern renaissance man of the alternative scene. Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard will release a new studio album on Rough Trade Records on April 20th.

The Sunday Times praised Aisle16 with “Highlights of the spoken word scene” and they have since become one of the most sought after poetry acts in the UK. The collective, including Luke Wright, Ross Sutherland, Joel Stickley and Chris Hicks (who all perform solo as well as in Aisle16) started from humble beginnings running a poetry club above a communist themed pub. Together the four have created some of the most dynamic and ground-breaking poetry shows in the UK. ‘Powerpoint’ won a Time Out Critics’ Choice award in early 2005. Follow-up ‘Poetry Boyband’ enjoyed sold out shows in Edinburgh before being awarded Time Out Critics’ Choice of the Year the same year. ‘Services To Poetry’, which saw them visit England’s motorway service stations looking for poetic moments, toured the UK in 2007, finishing with a three night run at Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre. Aisle16 has now grown to accommodate Tim Clare, Joe Dunthorne and John Osborne.

Multi- award winning English poet Paul Farley is widely considered to be one of our most engaging writers. His culturally wide-ranging poems making references to film, television, and pop music have been awarded many accolades including the Forward Poetry Prize, Somerset Maugham Award, the Geoffrey Dearmer Award (for his first collection ‘The Boy From The Chemist Is Here To See You’) the Whitbread Poetry Award for his second collection (‘The Ice Age’) and the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. In 2004, Paul Farley was named as one of the Poetry Book Society's Next Generation poets. His latest collection ‘Tramp in Flames’, published in 2006 included the ‘Liverpool Disappears for a Billionth Of A Second’, which was awarded the Forward Prize for Best Individual Poem.

British poet and playwright Luke Kennard shot to fame with his first prose-poems collection ‘The Solex Brothers’ which was awarded an Eric Gregory Award in 2005. His second book ‘The Harbour Beyond The Movie’ (2007) was shortlisted for the 2007 Forward Poetry Prize (Best Collection), which at the tender age of 26 made him the youngest nominee ever in the history of the Forward Poetry Prizes. His highly anticipated third collection ‘The Migraine Hotel’ will be released this year.

Birmingham born slam-poetry champion Polar Bear will be bringing his rapid-speed word play to the Poetry Arena. A favourite of the festivals, Polar Bear’s rap social commentary has earned him a legion of fans. He’s recently been touring his show ‘If I Cover My Nose You Can’t See Me’ and his brand new work ‘Return’ will be unveiled this summer.

Music and poetry combine with writer, producer and DJ Charlie Dark who has made a dynamic impact on the UK poetry and performance scene. His vocal gymnastics and creative output makes Dark an important musical visionary. His recent show ‘Have Box Will Travel’ tells the semi-autobiographical story of a boy growing up in pursuit of a dream combining storytelling and music to great effect. Charlie Dark is also co-founder of Blacktronica - a loose collective of poets, painters, musicians, film makers and other creatives which has become one London’s best club nights.

Enter the weird and wonderful world of Mik Artistik and his Ego Trip; a delightfully surreal performance poet, stand-up comedian and painter. Having endured careers in insurance, oil and construction Mik Artistik emerged with his ‘Ego Trip’ in 2004 and has since played with Faust, Chumbawamba and at Glastonbury bringing an unpredictable and unnerving show.

A regular fixture on the stand-up poetry circuit, Joel Stickley is a renowned solo performer as well as a member of the Aisle16 poetry collective. His work has been featured across the airwaves and at a whole clutch of literary events across the country. He is also co-author of the book ‘Who Writes This Crap?’ with Luke Wright which the Guardian described as “an inspired piece of parody.” and The Stage followed with “His use of language, his ability to twist the narrative and turn the obscure into the profound is outstanding.”

Quirky, witty and moving Kathryn Simmonds is a fast-rising talent wowing critics and audiences alike. Gaining early recognition with her pamphlet ‘Snug’, (2004) as well as having many of her poems published in magazines, she was the winner of the 2006 Poetry London Competition and the 2007 Wigtown Poetry Competition. More recently her first collection of poems ‘Sunday At The Skin Laundrette’ won the prestigious Forward Prize for Best First Collection and was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award 2008.

Rapper, writer, poet and singer with the band Bad Science, Dizraeli is a hip hop tour de force. Taking in politics, love, rain, supermarkets, grief, drug culture and masculinity with a sense of humour and directness that can make you wince, Diz is also a member of the Brighton-based CommUNITY Collective, the 2006/7 Farrago UK Slam Poetry Champion and also the Radio 4 Poetry Slam winner.

Stand-up poet, armchair revolutionary and recumbent rocker, Elvis McGonagall is coming to Latitude. Boredom, desperation and the fear of putting on a bright orange apron and working in B&Q drove this entertainer into the twilight world of stand-up poetry. Now he scribbles verse whilst drinking malt whisky and listening to Johnny Cash at his residence at The Graceland Caravan Park somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Elvis is the 2006 World Slam Champion, the compere of the notorious Blue Suede Sporran Club and is one of the poets occasionally in residence on BBC Radio 4’s 'Saturday Live'.

Aisle16 co-founder Ross Sutherland will be performing solo at Latitude. His quick-wit, free-wheeling lyricism and surreal, twisted outlook has wowed audiences across the country and he was included in The Times' list of Top Ten Literary Stars on 2008. Ross has co-written eight live literature productions, including the critically acclaimed Poetry Boyband (Time Out Critic’s Choice of the Year 2005). His debut solo collection 'Things To Do Before You Leave Town' is out now.

Fellow Aisle16 member, writer, stand-up poet and musician Tim Clare is a welcomed addition to the Poetry Arena. His filthy hyperkinetic doggerel continues to baffle and appal audiences all over the UK. He has written for the Guardian and the Times and his autobiographical book about thwarted ambition and growing up, 'We Can’t All Be Astronauts' is out this year. The Bookseller rated him as "A fantastic writer—his prose contains both the bumbling charm of Jon Ronson and the splenetic bile of Charlie Brooker."

South London’s spoken word performance poet, artist and illustrator Dockers MC boasts a witty and contemporary talent and whose poetry is a treasury of words. Creating characters with perfectly formed monologues she is a fast rising star, selected by The Times newspaper as one the Top 10 Literary talents for 2008. Her most recent book ‘Ugly Shy Girl’ is due out this summer and features story telling, poetry and music.

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24th March 2009
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Latitude - the Poetry Arena

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