Anthology celebrates the 20th Ledbury Poetry Festival

‘Ledbury Poetry Festival stores up the essence of poetry throughout its packed, intense and sunlit days.’ -  Helen Dunmore

A new anthology to celebrate the twentieth Ledbury Poetry Festival will be launched at the opening of this year’s festival, which runs from 1 to 10 July.   Hwaet!: 20 Years of Ledbury Poetry Festival is published by Bloodaxe Books, and is edited by Mark Fisher, who opened the first Ledbury Poetry Festival in 1997 as Labour’s Minister for the Arts.   

Hwaet! (rhyming with cat) is the opening word of the great Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf. It means ‘Listen!’– a calling for attention.  For twenty years the Ledbury Poetry Festival has invited audiences to listen to more than 550 poets from over 35 countries. 

This anthology brings together 200 new poems by a wide range of poets who have read at Ledbury since 1996, along with poems by poets no longer with us such as Adrian Mitchell, whose final poem ‘My Literary Career so Far’, written two days before he died, is a bittersweet reminder of a poet whose readings made such an impact at Ledbury.   

Interspersed between the poems are anecdotes from poets and others, offering a sense of the diverse flavour of this international poetry festival.  There is also an account of how Ledbury was responsible for the late US poet Samuel Menashe being published in Britain. 

The poets included in Hwaet! come from all parts of Britain and Ireland, from North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Also featured are writers who have been poet-in-residence at the festival, or worked on community and schools projects in Ledbury, as well as winners of the Ledbury Poetry Competition. 

There are poems inspired by Ledbury, such as ‘The Market House, Ledbury’ by Kay Ryan, ‘Days on Dog Hill’ by the late Ken Smith and two Ledbury-related poems by the Palestinian- American poet Naomi Shihab Nye. There are also Ledbury poems by Japanese poets Machi Tawara and Gozo Yoshimasu, the church bells ringing during Gozo’s reading there prompting his paen ‘In Ledbury, I (who?) sang along with the bells, …’. 

Poems by leading lights of the poetry world such as Carol Ann Duffy, Jackie Kay, Gillian Clarke, Andrew Motion, James Fenton, Sharon Olds, Billy Collins and Michael Longley sit alongside work from new and emerging poets.  The result is an anthology that is eclectic, challenging, funny and at times moving.  Fittingly, the anthology also includes Michael Rosen’s poem ‘Hwaet!’. 

Mark Fisher comments in his Introduction: ‘The state of poetry in Britain, and in the wider world, is very much better than twenty years ago. We are determined that the next twenty years will show even more exciting developments.’ 

Chloe Garner, Artistic Director, writes “This anthology reflects the vision and enthusiasm of its editor Mark Fisher and celebrates the current state of poetry – which I am convinced is thriving.”



Hwaet!: 20 Years of Ledbury Poetry Festival, edited by Mark Fisher,  is published by Bloodaxe Books in association with Ledbury Poetry Festival on Friday 1 July 2016, price £9.99, paperback. For cover jpegs or interview requests, please call Chloe Garner on 01531 634156 / / 07415472163. 

LAUNCH EVENT IN LEDBURY Friday 1 July 2016, 7-9pm, Community Hall  Hwaet! will be launched at a showcase event hosted by Mark Fisher.  Featuring poets from the anthology, including Fleur Adcock, Ruth Padel, Daljit Nagra, Kim Moore, Karen McCarthy Woolf, Alison Brackenbury and Hannah Lowe. 

Ledbury Poetry Festival, 1-10 July 2016: