Poetry&Words at Glastonbury – A Busman’s Holiday

It’s been over a month since Glastonbury, which is just about enough time for me to have recovered the sleep lost during the festival and be in a fit state to put finger to keyboard and blog about it.


Poetry&Words is the Glastonbury Festival poetry showcase. It is not an Apples and Snakes gig. It is run by hardworking poet and academic Helen Gregory with her Poetry&Words committee and dedicated crew. To many performance poets, an invitation to appear at Poetry& Words, along with Latitude and/or Port Eliot, is a must-have on their CV; a dandy feather in their poetry cap. After all, Poetry& Words poets are selected from an open submission which sees over 200 applications each year from which just a few performers are selected by the committee. Of course the selection committee have to bear in mind diversity of styles and geography so that those appearing at the festival represent as many different aspects of live poetry as possible, so if you don’t make it first time, try again the next year.


To apply you have to submit a poetry CV, plus some sort of audio, or even better, audio/visual, samples of your work. Anyone who doesn’t do this is automatically put on the No pile; as are people who the previous year, on finding they haven’t been selected, send snitty and abusive emails to the tune of ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ and ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about.’ – a sure fire way not to be selected when you apply the following year…

So, you’ve submitted and been accepted (Hoorah!) and your ticket’s arrived  and you’ve made your way to Worthy Farm, Pilton and queued with the masses (secretly grinning inside because you know you’re a performer and everyone else has paid for their tickets). You’ve trudged across the colourful acres of the site to the far corner and have pitched your tent backstage where they have a little more space, a little more security, portaloos just for performers, running water and even a hot shower and you’ve registered as a performer so you get a Theatre and Circus backstage pass that allows you into the crew/artists canteen and Green Room Bar. What more should you expect?

Matt Harvery

You should expect to meet poets you’ve heard of but never seen, poets you’ve never heard of but enjoy watching for the first time and poets you seem to have known all your life. Expect to take your Poetry&Words stage-time by the scruff of the neck and impress your peers, the dedicated Poetry&Words fans and the sort of people who ‘didn’t know poetry could be like that’.  Expect to make new friends and party into the early hours. Expect to talk poetry and festivals in roughly equal measures and to create new networks and fans. Expect the opportunity to perform on more than just the Poetry&Words stage because there are plenty of open mics that happen at smaller venues all over the festival – this year many of the poets spent their evenings at ‘The Poetree’ (so called because the stage is built halfway up a tree) playing poetry tag for free drinks and Pete the Temp won the Speakers Corner slam, gaining a feature slot between a talk by Michael Eavis and a talk by Tony Benn.

Highlights of Poetry&Words  for me this year? Well, I didn’t get to see everyone perform, but it was great to see Vanessa Kisuule wowing audiences with her smart lippy poemsScott Tyrell’s first festival set, which brought tears of joy and sadness; Matt Harvey calmly and cleverly delivering a blistering set; Tim Clare’s rendition of ‘My Favourite Things’;  Poeticat still dancing away at 2am on Monday morning and the look on Michael Eavis’ face when he dropped  into the Poetry&Words tent to catch Toby Thompson performing his slam-winning graphic poem about Devil Worship…

There’s no Glastonbury Festival in 2012, we all need a break, so there will be no call out for submissions until early 2013, but in the meantime the Poetry&Words official Facebook group is here and their blog is here.

Pete Hunter – South East Coordinator, Apples and Snakes

(Pictures here courtesy of Poetry&Words and Bohdan Piasecki)