The Poetry Festival, 27-29 September 2019: All done and dusted.

Event photos by Ben Elwes and Rob Elwes. If you would like a high-resolution version of any of these pictures, drop us an email.

  2019 Poetry Festival: 27-29 September

  The Weekend’s Events  

  Friday 27 September, 7.30pm  

Elisabeth Sennitt Clough

Matthew Caley

Helen Ivory

  Saturday 28th September, 11.00am  


Is Poetry Better Served By

Readers Or Listeners?

Chaired by John Lucas

With contributions from the writers and audience

  Saturday 28th September, 3.00pm  

Sue Burge

Kit Fan

Nick Drake

  Saturday 28th September, 8.00pm  

Jo Shapcott

Tim Liardet

  Sunday 29th September, 11.00am  

John Greening

Adam Feinstein

will present his translations of the great

Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda

  Sunday 29th September, 3.00pm  

In Memoriam Matthew Sweeney

with Mary Noonan

Chaired by John Lucas

with contributions from the writers

(Click here for an easy-to-print version of the timetable of events)

Admission is £8.50, either in advance or on the door. Friday and Saturday nights are particularly popular, so do consider booking in advance to secure a seat. An all-weekend pass is £37.50. Students’ price is £1 per event. Click here for booking information.

The listed start times denote when the readings start, so please arrive in good time to be seated. Late-comers will be admitted, but you’ll get some odd looks.

There is usually a 20 minute break between two halves of 45 minutes. The bookstall welcomes your trade with cash or contactless plastic.

Click here to download a copy of the programme, or pick one up at various locations in King’s Lynn: Norbury’s Fine Foods (Tower Street), Waterstones, Tourist Info (now at the Old Gaol House on Saturday Market Place), Bank House Hotel (by the Custom House), Hawkins Ryan offices (Tuesday Market Place).

Remembering Matthew Sweeney

The event on Sunday afternoon will remember the poetry of Matthew Sweeney, who died last year of motor neurone disease, age 65. He came to our festival many times, delivering a blistering performance on each occasion. With his partner, poet Mary Noonan, we look back on his work and hear his poetry. (Picture, Neil Astley, Bloodaxe Books)

Click here to go to The Guardian’s obituary of Matthew.


Elisabeth Sennitt Clough, PhD, is an alumna of the Arvon/Jerwood Mentorship scheme 2016 and Toast Poets 2017. She was also a Ledbury Emerging Poet 2017. Her debut pamphlet, Glass, was a winner in the Paper Swans inaugural pamphlet competition in 2016. It went on to win Best Pamphlet at the Saboteur Awards 2017. Her debut collection, Sightings, was published by Pindrop Press in December 2016. It won the Michael Schmidt Prize for Best Portfolio. A poem from that collection was highly commended in the Forward Prize and published in the Forward Book of Poetry 2018. Her second full collection, At or Below Sea Level, is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation.

Matthew Caley’s Thirst (1999) was nominated for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. He’s published five more since then, with his sixth, Trawlerman’s Turquoise, launching at King’s Lynn. His work has featured in many anthologies including Poems of The Decade (Forward Editions); Identity Parade : New British and Irish Poetry and The Picador Book of Love Poems. Matthew has read his work from Morden Tower, Newcastle to The National Portrait Gallery, London; from Galway to Novi Sad. In previous lives he was on the fringe of the Small Press revival in the 1980’s; designed record sleeves; lived in squats in Brixton during the 80’s-90’s; has taught in art schools. Recently, he’s tutored for The Poetry School and been Associate Lecturer in Contemporary Poetry/Creative Writing at The School of English, St Andrews University. He lives in London with the Czech artist Pavla Alchin and their two daughters, Iris and Mina.

Helen Ivory is a poet and visual artist. Her fifth Bloodaxe collection, The Anatomical Venus (May 2019), examines how women have been portrayed as ‘other’; as witches; as hysterics with wandering wombs and as beautiful corpses cast in wax, or on mortuary slabs in TV box sets. She edits the webzine Ink Sweat and Tears and is a tutor for the UEA/NCW online creative writing programme. Fool’s World, a collaborative Tarot card project with Tom de Freston (Gatehouse Press) won the 2016 Saboteur Best Collaborative Work award. A book of mixed media poems, Hear What the Moon Told Me, appeared from KFS in 2016, and a chapbook Maps of the Abandoned City was published by SurVision Press (Ireland) earlier this year. She lives in Norwich with her husband, the poet Martin Figura, where they help run Café Writers – a live literature organisation.

Sue Burge is a Norfolk-based poet and freelance teacher of writing courses since 2007. Previously, she taught Creative Writing at UEA for 20 years. She also writes and teaches courses on film, and her pamphlet Lumière was inspired by films set in Paris from 1895 through to the French New Wave directors. Her first full collection, In the Kingdom of Shadows (2018), was shortlisted for the Live Canon First Collection Prize. Heidi Williamson wrote of “widely travelled poems both culturally and historically, journeying deep into territories of collective memory and individual psyche”.

Born in Hong Kong, Kit Fan moved to Britain at 21. He is a poet and fiction writer. His first book, Paper Scissors Stone, won the inaugural HKU International Poetry Prize. Kit’s second collection, As Slow As Possible, is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and chosen by the Guardian as one of the biggest books in 2018 and The Irish Times Best Poetry Book of the Year. He won a Times Stephen Spender Poetry Translator Prize. He was shortlisted for the Guardian 4th Estate BAME Short Story Prize consecutively in 2017 and 2018. Kit won a 2018 Northern Writers Award for Diamond Hill, a novel in progress.

Nick Drake was born in 1961, grew up in Hertfordshire, studied at Cambridge University and is based in London. He is a screenwriter, playwright, librettist, and poet, with his first collection, The Man in the White Suit (Bloodaxe Books, 1999), being a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, and winner of the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. In September 2010 he travelled to the Arctic to explore climate change. From that journey arose poems and texts for the ground-breaking installation High Arctic at the National Maritime Museum (2011). Together with other poems inspired by the Arctic and its voices, they are gathered in his collection The Farewell Glacier (Bloodaxe Books, 2012). Other recent projects include the screenplay for the film Romulus, My Father, which won best Film at the Australian Film Awards. His fourth poetry collection, Out of Range, was published by Bloodaxe in 2018.

Jo Shapcott was born in London 1953. She was an undergraduate at Trinity College, Dublin and later studied at St Hilda’s College, Oxford. From there, she received a Harkness Fellowship to Royal Holloway College, London, where she is today Professor of Creative Writing. Her awards for collections include the Commonwealth Poetry Prize, the Forward Poetry Prize, and in 2011 she received the Costa Prize for Of Mutability. She has twice won the National Poetry Competition. Jo has worked with musicians on collaborative projects, and in 1997 had her poems set to music and has presented poetry programmes for BBC radio. Her book Tender Taxes includes her versions from Rilke’s French Poems (2001). She is President of the Poetry Society and is considered one of Britain’s leading poets.

Born in London in 1959, Tim Liardet is a respected critic and Professor of Poetry at Bath Spa University. He has reviewed poetry for such journals as The Independent, The Independent on Sunday, and Poetry Review and The Guardian. He has produced eleven collections of poetry - his third, Competing With The Piano Tuner, was a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation and long listed for the Whitbread poetry prize in 1998. The Blood Choir, his fifth collection, won an Arts Council England writers’ award, was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and shortlisted for the 2006 TS Eliot prize. His New & Selected Poems, Arcimboldo’s Bulldog, was published last year and spans nine of his ten award-winning collections, and adds some new poems.

Adam Feinstein is an acclaimed British author, poet, translator, Hispanist, journalist, film critic and autism researcher. His biography of the Nobel Prize-winning poet, Pablo Neruda: A Passion for Life, was first published by Bloomsbury in 2004 and reissued in an updated edition in 2013 (Harold Pinter called it ‘a masterpiece’) along with his book of translations from Neruda’s Canto General. He also wrote the introduction to Jorge Luis Borges’ Labyrinths, 2007. His own poems and his translations (of Neruda, Federico García Lorca, Mario Benedetti and others) have appeared in magazines, including PN Review, Agenda, Acumen, Poem and Modern Poetry in Translation. He lectures worldwide and broadcasts regularly for the BBC and writes for the Guardian, the Observer, the Financial Times and the Times Literary Supplement. Arc published his latest book of translations, The Unknown Neruda, in August 2019.

John Greening was born in Chiswick, 1954. He has published 15 collections, most recently The Silence (2019) and a collaboration with Penelope Shuttle, Heath (2016). He won an Arvon Award (judged by Hughes and Heaney) and Cholmondeley Award. A long time reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement, he worked for many years as a teacher, both in the UK and at Aswan, Upper Egypt, where he was awarded the Alexandria Poetry Prize, and also in New Jersey, Mannheim and Arbroath. Since retiring from teaching, he has held several fellowships, most recently for the Royal Literary Fund at Newnham College, Cambridge. He has edited the work of Edmund Blunden and Geoffrey Grigson, and written studies of Elizabethan Love Poems, Yeats, Hardy, First World War Poets, Edward Thomas and Ted Hughes.

Mary Noonan was born in London but grew up in Cork. She is an Irish poet and academic, lecturer in French at University College Cork, focusing on French women playwrights and film. Her poems have been widely published in journals and her debut collection, The Fado House (2012) was written during her travels and so has international settings: Paris, Berlin, India, even Muscat (Oman). The collection was awarded the Listowel Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for both the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize for a First Collection (2013) and the Strong/Shine Award (2013). Her latest collection is Stone Girl, published by Dedalus Press in 2019, after the death of her father but before that of her partner, Matthew Sweeney.

A distinguished poet, novelist and critic, John Lucas is Professor Emeritus at the Universities of Loughborough and Nottingham Trent. He is the author of many academic works and has published seven books of his own poetry. His novels include The Good That We Do (2000) and 92 Acharnon Street (2007), which blend fiction, memoir and social history. Other recent books include A Brief History of Whistling, an esoteric study that attracted the attention of BBC’s Have I Got News For You, and a charming and beautifully produced anthology of 10 Cricket Poems. John Lucas was the winner of the Aldeburgh Festival Poetry Prize. He runs Shoestring Press and lives in Nottingham.