CROSSING borders is the theme of this year’s Stratford Poetry Festival
Poets and artists will reflect on conflict, immigration and integration at the 64th annual Shakespeare Birthplace Trust-organised festival running from June 18 to 25.
This year’s Poet in Residence is the award-winning Cherokee poet Jessica Mehta from Oregon. Much of Jessica’s writing is centered on her self-identity as a Native American woman. She will give readings and join discussions about what it means to be a native writer today and explore the history, arts, works and struggles of indigenous communities in America.
The festival launches on Father’s Day, with a special programme of poetry for dads including the launch of Shakespearian actor Oliver Ford Davies’s new book, Shakespeare’s Fathers and Daughters. Oliver will present his work and take part in a recital with actress Mariah Gale. They have previously played a father and daughter (Polonius and Ophelia) in Hamlet and will explore why Shakespeare was so obsessed with fathers and daughters.
Other festival highlights include:
* Simon Russell Beale and Alexandra Gilbreath performing a recital about how poets and writers respond to war, refugees and crossing borders: All the Business of War, a special programme devised by poet and Shakespearian academic Roger Pringle. The evening features poems of several centuries and cultures which have responded to wars, distant and recent, and its consequences.
* Inua Ellams’s acclaimed show An Evening with an Immigrant. Packed with poems, stories and anecdotes, poet and playwright Inua will tell his experience as an immigrant, with tales of escaping fundamentalist Islam in Nigeria, performing solo shows at the National Theatre and drinking wine with the Queen – all while being without a country to belong to or a place to call home.
* Multi award-winning Kurdish poet and journalist, Bejan Matur, in conversation with Erica James of the Poetry Translation Centre for an evening of readings and tales about the struggles of the Kurdish people. Her poetry engages directly with the issues she faced and yet there is also a mysticism in her writing, a closeness to nature and embracing mythology.
* Midsummer’s eve around a bonfire in the grounds of Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. Follow the tradition of singing songs and telling stories around the fire, and hear extracts from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and related poetry.
Festival director Dr Paul Edmondson said: “Poetry nourishes us through all the seasons of life, and this year we wanted the festival to reflect something of our own troubled times. Wherever people are, and however displaced they are, poetry and stories will be part of their daily bread.
“This year, the UK’s longest-running poetry festival, based in the town of one of the greatest of all poets, calls us to feel solidarity with world events. Shakespeare always provides a great occasion for international conversations and connections, and he’s our backdrop for this truly internationally-focused festival.”
Visit www.shakespeare.org.uk/poetryfestival for tickets and further details.