Essex Poetry Festival: 16th Sep – 21st Oct

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It’s the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’, a season of ‘winnowing wind’ and ‘gathering swallows’…

John Keats enshrined autumn with these words. As soon as the leaves start to look a little coppery and the air feel a bit nippier, I can’t help but recite my favourite lines from his poem ‘To Autumn’, the last of his ‘1819 Odes’.

Keats’s lines ooze with the imagery of harvest time: the reader is greeted with the intoxicating fume of poppies and a vision of apples ‘ripening to the core’. Rather than mourn the lost ‘songs of Spring’, Keats suggests we should embrace the ‘music’ of autumn for its graceful, organic harmony.

I hope you enjoyed that rather literary introduction to what is going to be a very literature-focused blog post. Joining the chorus of swallows and the other instrumentalists in Keats’s autumn music, Essex Poetry Festival has arrived, bringing some beautifully distinctive voices of its own.

This annual celebration of the spoken word has now been running for over a decade. Its past lineups have been impressive and this year promises to be no less so. Well-known poets Tim Cunningham, Caroline Gilfillan and Blake Morrison are set to headline the festival’s ‘Big Day of Poetry’, happening this year on 11 October at Cramphorn Theatre, Chelmsford.

The festival is also a celebration of poets familiar to the county itself. Rosie Sandler, Frank Dullaghan and Rikki Livermore – three Essex Poets – will join the ‘big names’ appearing on the ‘Big Day’ with readings from their own collections. An open mic session is also scheduled to take place, giving locals the opportunity to perform their work in front of a welcoming audience. Although somewhat updated, this kind of creative forum is well within the tradition of Keats and the Romantic poets who were known for trialling their poems upon one another before releasing them to the press.

The full programme of events put on by the festival can be found on their website: Most of the readings taking place across Essex libraries are free but afternoon tickets for the ‘Big Day’ at Cramphorn Theatre cost £5 and evening tickets £8.50. Tickets can be purchased via the Box Office on 01245 606505.

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