Lyra Poetry Festival celebrates Chatterton

Lyra Poetry Festival celebrates influential 18th century poet

Thursday, 19 November, 2020

An 18th century Bristol poet’s influence has been brought back to life through a series of videos released by Lyra Bristol Poetry Festival. The series is part of the city-wide National Lottery Heritage Fund project, Bristol: A Poetic City, marking the 250th anniversary of the death of the poet Thomas Chatterton.

Lyra Bristol Poetry Festival’s origins stretch over to the city of Bath, as it is directed by Lucy English, Reader in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, and its MRes in Transnational Writing graduate, Danny Pandolfi.

Chatterton, who was born in Bristol in 1752 and died tragically at age 17, was an influence to well-known Romantic poets such as Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth and Coleridge.

The poems, by UK poets including Theresa Lola, Fran Lock, Anthony Anaxagorou, Keith Jarrett and Chris McCabe, were written in response to the famous painting of Chatterton by Henry Wallis. Each was filmed reading their poem in front of the painting during its loan from Tate, London to Royal West of England Academy (RWA) in Bristol last month.

Lucy said: “I am thrilled that the Lyra Bristol Poetry Festival commissioned 12 poets, local and national, to write these poems. The poems illustrate a breadth of poetic devices, images, forms and unique angles and humanise Chatterton in modern, real-world scenarios.” 

 “It was an extraordinary privilege to see the painting in person,” Lucy continued. “The Tate rarely lets it tour so it was a very special occasion.”

The videos can be viewed via the Lyra Bristol Poetry Festival Facebook page. The poems are also available in a new book which is being distributed for free around Bristol.

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