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What is a lifesaving poem?

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Tomorrow I will be taking part at the Wenlock Poetry Festival in an event with Roz Goddard. We will be in conversation together discussing my forthcoming Bloodaxe anthology Lifesaving Poems.

Among our topics of conversation will be how we discover poetry and what it does to us; the intersection of our expectations and experiences (including of poetry) as we read the poem; and how far we can say that poetry is ‘lifesaving’.

I’ll be reading key, emblematic poems from the anthology, and telling the stories of how I first came across them.

I will also be telling something of my own personal story, including my diagnosis of cancer in 2006, and the challenge this posed in terms of losing my ability to read. I’ll be reading poems which express the frustrations of losing poetry altogether and which question the efficacy of our culture’s typical depiction of cancer as a ‘battle’.

To borrow Sylvia Plath’s phrase, we will be looking at nothing less than the means by which words can govern a life. I look forward to seeing you there.