Poetry and Sound with Holly Pester

Poetry can be so much more than just words on a page.

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This year’s festival is all about connecting poets and celebrating multidisciplinary poetry practices and performances, so Holly Pester is a perfect headliner for us.

Poet, researcher, multidisciplinary writer and lecturer, Holly is fascinated by sound and performance. We’re delighted to welcome her to our line-up at the festival this year.

Holly has featured in readings, performances and sound installations in New York and London, and has been published in Poetry Review, Poetry London and the Believer. Her portfolio is a fascinating and eclectic mix of writing, music, sound poetry and theory.

Her book, Go to reception and ask for Sara in red felt tip is a collection of ‘archive fanfiction’ (Book Works 2015) and her album Common Rest (Test Centre 2016) is a collection of collaborative lullabies and sound poems. The album is a multimedia collaborative work developed by Holly throughout her residency with Hubbub - an international team of scientists, historians, artists and broadcasters based at the Wellcome Collection - materialising Holly’s interest in speech rhythms and patterns which are responsive to work and rest. The album is accompanied by a book of poems by Holly.

The sound pieces and songs featured on the album explore the complex sounds and dynamics of the lullaby, variously manifested as whispered chants, fast-paced dialogues, layered, contrapuntal vocal lines, spoken and sung, jazz riffs and ASMR soundscapes, and playful, childlike songs.

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As Pester writes in her sleeve notes, ‘Within this collective of voices are thoughts and experiences relating to activism, mental health, abortion, sex work, love, collaboration, genders, wages, rent, mould, hair, bedrooms, politics, carpets, mothers, the sea, homelessness, spines, money, dogs, education, machines, witchcraft, beds…’

Writing about it really doesn’t do it justice. To get a feel for her work, you need to hear it. 

If you’re intrigued, check out her website and come along to her poetry reading with Luke Kennard on Saturday. It will be a performance you’ve never experienced before.

by Charlotte Rayment