Poetry at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Sunday 4 August 2019

Now that we are into August and Edinburgh festival season, we’re delighted to see that Edinburgh International Book Festival is hosting an exciting and broad programme of poetry events again in 2019. You can hear from the UK’s newly appointed Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, as well as a whole range of Scottish poetic talent. The Babble On – Spoken Word strand returns curated in partnership with Becky Fincham and Luke Wright to bring you the best international stars and giants of the UK scene. Plus, free drop-in Unbound with Edinburgh Gin evenings feature include performances from Inua Ellams, Hollie McNish and more.

The Book Festival Village takes over Charlotte Square Gardens and the west end of George Street from 10–26 August. Entry is free and it’s open from 9.30am until late every day. There are bookshops, cafes and bars to explore, so come down and enjoy the sunshine.

In an exclusive offer for StAnza readers, you can enjoy 2-for-1 tickets on some of Edinburgh International Book Festival’s top poetry events. See event details below and use the promo code STANZA19 at checkout to redeem.

This offer is valid on full price tickets only, subject to availability. It cannot be used in conjunction with any other offers or discounts.

Linton Kwesi Johnson, Roger Robinson & Anthony Wall

Sun 18 Aug 21:45 - 22:45   The New York Times Main Theatre, Charlotte Square Gardens

The release of Linton Kwesi Johnson’s Dread Beat an’ Blood spoken poetry album 40 years ago established dub-poetry as a new literary genre. Now 66, the Jamaican-born artist is widely recognised as one of Britain’s most significant poets; he is only the second living poet to be published by Penguin Modern Classics and in 2012 received the Golden PEN award for ‘distinguished service to literature.’

In this special event, Johnson pays homage to friend, social worker and fellow Jamaican dub-poet Mikey Smith. Before his tragic death at a political rally in 1983, Smith recorded his debut album Mi Cyaan Believe It, which catapulted the poet to legendary status.

Johnson is joined by BAFTA-winning filmmaker Anthony Wall – who produced the 1982 movie Upon Westminster Bridge about Smith – contemporary dub-poet, musician and performer Roger Robinson, and Jamaican-raised author Leone Ross. Remembering Mikey Smith brings together film excerpts, poetry readings and conversation to celebrate the legacy of one of Jamaica’s most influential literary sons.  Book Now

A Local Arena series event produced in partnership with Filmhouse Edinburgh, Speaking Volumes and Lucy Hannah.

Jay Bernard & Iain Morrison

Fri 16 Aug 20:30 - 21:30   Baillie Gifford Corner Theatre, Charlotte Square Gardens

Two performance poets offer queer perspectives on British experience. In January 1981, thirteen teenagers died in a house fire in New Cross. Jay Bernard’s award-winning Surge: Side A traces a line between that horrific fire and the Grenfell Tower fire of 2017. Meanwhile, Edinburgh-based Iain Morrison brings us his debut I’m A Pretty Circler, an infectious, thought-provoking collection in which Emily Dickinson rubs shoulders with drag queens.  Book Now

Carol Ann Duffy

Sun 11 Aug 20:30 - 21:30   The New York Times Main Theatre, Charlotte Square Gardens

Carol Ann Duffy’s poetry has long been both private and public, her knack for voicing her own imagination and the sighs and roars of the world around her unparalleled. She recently ended a decade as Poet Laureate, and the final collection of her tenure, Sincerity, is a vibrant testament to her poetic powers, where moving elegies nestle beside political rallying cries. Pure, distilled Duffy is a Book Festival highlight. Book Now

The Divan Sessions: The West-Eastern Divan

Wed 14 Aug 14:15 - 15:15   Garden Theatre, Charlotte Square Gardens

Goethe’s West-Eastern Divan, the poet’s personal attempt to broaden European horizons by exploring the concept of the Other and creating a poetic dialogue between East and West, marks its 200th anniversary this year. Persian academic Narguess Farzad, poet Robin Robertson and Goethe expert Jan Wagner are joined by Haus Publishing’s Barbara Schwepcke to discuss this classic text and a specially commissioned series of new poems, translations and essays.  Book Now

The Divan Sessions: The New Divan

Thu 15 Aug 18:00 - 19:30   The Spiegeltent, Charlotte Square Gardens

The West-Eastern Divan was Goethe's last major body of poetry, a tribute to Persian verse. To celebrate its bicentenary, A New Divan brings together 24 poets from West and East in a dialogue exploring otherness. This major international event brings together a brilliant array of acclaimed poets from East and West, including Don Paterson, Kathleen Jamie, Robin Robertson, Jamie McKendrick, Antonella Anedda, Chloe Aridjis, Sean O'Brien, Narguess Farzad, Jo Shapcott and Gilles Ortlieb to perform specially commissioned pieces.  Book Now

Rachel Long, Tania Nwachukwu & Hibaq Osman

Sun 18 Aug 16:00 - 17:00   Garden Theatre, Charlotte Square Gardens

Octavia is a poetry collective for women of colour founded by Rachel Long in response to the lack of representation in literature and academia. Since 2015, Octavia have read beyond the canon and written themselves on their own terms, coming together every month at the Southbank Centre. This event showcases the breathtaking talents of Rachel Long, Tania Nwachukwu and Hibaq Osman in an hour of unforgettable poetry. Book Now

Throwing Voices: Agustina Bazterrica, John Burnside & Luke Sutherland

Thu 22 Aug 18:00 - 19:30   The Spiegeltent, Charlotte Square Gardens

Throwing Voices is a unique collaborative project looking at how local language, culture and tradition can resonate across linguistic divides. Using selected objects and words, Argentine writer Agustina Bazterrica and Scottish poet John Burnside share new music, verse, songs and discussion. The authors have worked with acclaimed London-born musician and writer Luke Sutherland (who grew up in Orkney and studied in Glasgow) to create a boundary-crossing performance exploring the similarities and differences between indigenous Argentine and Scottish cultures. Book Now

Supported by the Scottish Government’s Festivals Expo Fund

Don Paterson

Mon 19 Aug 20:45 - 21:45   Spark Theatre on George Street
The New Yorker described aphorisms as the ‘obscure hinterland between poetry and prose’ but in Don Paterson’s hands they can feel like a cross between Hollywood noir one-liners and well-judged tweets. He skillfully demonstrates that aphorisms may well be the perfect poetic form for our digital days. Paterson’s new collection, The Fall at Home, provides plenty of literary golden nuggets for today’s event.  Book Now