It’s that time again!
The annual Cork-Coventry poetry exchange is now in its fifteenth year. Two rising stars of Coventry’s local poetry and spoken word scene, Devjani Bodepudi and John Watson, have been selected to represent the city this year, which involves travelling to Cork (Ireland) and performing their work.
Coventry is the birthplace of the ‘twin city’ concept, which began in 1941 with a gesture of solidarity sent from women of Coventry to Volgograd (then Stalingrad), following the Blitz and extensive bombings of WWII. Cov has special partnerships with a multitude of cities around the world (twenty-six!), a fact many local residents take pride in – and, in 1958, we became Cork’s first ever twin city. This connection was formed due to a high number of Cork residents emigrating to Coventry at that time for work and then choosing to settle here.
The Cork-Coventry Poetry Exchange has been going since 2008, as a scheme for writers to promote international peace, friendship and cultural understanding between the two places as creative communities. In addition to performing at poetry events overseas, the selected poets take a tour of significant landmarks, network with other local writers, and pay state visits to both the Coventry and Cork Lord Mayors.
Following a few rocky years during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic (the 2020 exchange was virtual, while an anthology was produced in a 2021 collaboration instead of the usual exchange), the poets are once again able to set foot on Irish and British soil respectively as part of their experience.
Next week, on 14th August 2023, Devjani and John will travel to Cork and headline at legendary events like Ó Bhéal and DeBarra’s Spoken Word. Then, in November, Cork poets Cathal Holden and Rosalin Blue will be welcomed to Coventry and feature at two of our events, including a special edition of HCE’s ‘Fire&Dust’ open mic night.
Ó Bhéal is now a hybrid event, happening in-person but also livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook. Organiser Paul Casey has invited Coventry poets and poetry fans to attend the Ó Bhéal gig online to show support for Devjani and John, as well as joining in with the 5-word prompt challenge (and they can even perform in the open mic if they contact him in advance to request a slot). This is a unique and exciting opportunity for the Coventry community (plus interested parties from anywhere else in the world) to see inside and experience the atmosphere of Cork’s Long Valley pub venue!
We look forward to seeing you there…
Here Comes Everyone is grateful to acknowledge the continued support of partner organisations who have funded and/or championed the exchange scheme: Coventry Association of International Friendship (CAIF), Coventry City Council, Coventry Peace Festival, Nine Arches Press, Writing West Midlands, Cork City Council, Ó Bhéal and DeBarra’s Spoken Word.
DEVJANI BODEPUDI is a writer, poet and teacher of Indian origin who grew up in Coventry and currently lives in Warwickshire. She has been published widely, including in Stanchion Zine, Sunday Mornings at the River and Honeyguide. Amongst other things, Devjani has published a novel with Holland House and a children’s book with Parakeet Books. Her debut poetry pamphlet, FOR THE DAUGHTERS CARRIED HERE ON THE HIPS OF THEIR MOTHERS was published by Fawn Press early this year and has won a 2023 Saboteur Award for ‘Best Poetry Pamphlet’. Devjani is currently studying for her MA in Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham and is working on her second collection.
JOHN WATSON has been a vehicle design sculptor since his early-20s. He has travelled extensively to work for all of the major automotive companies in Sweden, Germany, Czech republic, France, Spain and the UK. John has been the host of ‘Pure Good & Right’ in Kenilworth, one of England’s longest running poetry events, for the last ten years or so. He has had his work published in Here Comes Everyone and The Idler magazines. He has been a featured poet at ‘Fire&Dust’ in Coventry, ‘Hush’ in Earlsdon Carnegie Library, the ‘Sheepdip’ sessions in Princethorpe, and at the Leamington Spa Peace Festival, as well as featuring on the mic at Leamington Spa’s hugely popular ‘Art in the Park.’ John took on the role of Warden at a natural burial ground throughout the recent pandemic. Since finishing there last winter, he has been writing up his experiences, working them into a six episode screenplay.
ROSALIN BLUE is a bilingual poet from Münster (Germany), who has been on stage since 1995. Since 2000, her poetic home is Ó Bhéal in Ireland, and she has performed at many events in Cork and county, as well as festivals across the country, including Electric Picnic and LINGO. Her poetry has been anthologised in On the Banks, A Journey Called Home, and Cork Words 2, and published in magazines including Southword, Revival, Crannóg, A New Ulster and Solstice Sounds II. In 2023, one of her poems was shortlisted for the Fish Poetry Prize. Since 2020 she has facilitated the Blue Mondays Writing Group and edited/published their 2021 poetry anthology. Rosalin’s books include: “In the Consciousness of Earth” (Poetry), Lapwing, 2012; August Stramm, “You Lovepoems” (Translation from German), Münster 2015. The launch of her first album of poetry to music is imminent in 2023. Currently she is studying for a Diploma in Translation. You can find her on YouTube and Facebook.
CATHAL HOLDEN is a poet and storyteller from the dingle peninsula. His words grow at the crossroads between the old world and the new, rooted in the Irish oral tradition of the seanachaí and branching into modern realms of spoken word and hip hop. He writes for firesides and forests, for love lost and found, for the festival stage and the city street alike. Cathal has been writing, performing and publishing all his life, winning multiple slams and accolades and appearing at numerous festivals as well as writing for radio and screen. He’s currently working on a retelling of Ireland’s ancient origin myth, Lebor Gabálá Érenn, with a cast of professional voice actors and original music.