The 70th anniversary of the world’s oldest literature festival is here!
4 – 13 October 2019
Gathering over 900 of the world’s best writers, brightest thinkers and inspiring performers for once-in-a-lifetime conversations to take place over ten extraordinary days of unique experiences, critical debate and literary revelry.
From 4 – 13 October, the Festival Village will host an unparalleled literary line-up including this year’s recipient of The Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence, Colm Tóibín, the new Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Cressida Cowell, the highly anticipated Booker shortlist, as well as the most exciting emerging talent on the scene. Dynamic debut novelists include Candice Carty-Williams, Ronan Hession, Elizabeth Macneal, Jessica Andrews and Season Butler as well as the Festival’s showcases of the best new writing in Fiction at 7, Debuts and Cocktails and Proof Parties.
As part of the ‘Seven at Seventy’ anniversary celebrations the Festival welcomes Chris Tse, Kanako Nishi and a raft of international authors to the Cheltenham stage, as well as showcasing unearthed archive audio content, introducing a literary audio trail of Cheltenham, and street art courtesy of Cheltenham Paint Festival on the theme ‘Hurrah for Books’.
I am delighted to have New Zealand poet Chris Tse, one of the seven outstanding writers joining Cheltenham’s 70th programme as part of the Festival’s ‘7 at 70’ celebrations, join us today for a Q & A
Chris Tse will be speaking at Cheltenham Literature Festival on 11th and 12th October
Your most recent collection of poetry He’s So MASC reflects on what it means to perform and dissect identity. Do you think the experience of writing poetry provides you with a stronger understanding of your own identity?
Absolutely. Before He’s So MASC I wrote mostly about other people and events – it felt like the safest way to explore some of the ideas and issues I was interested in. Turning the lens on myself was a daunting prospect, but also incredibly freeing in some respects. In general, the act of writing has allowed me to untangle the contradictions of my own identity in a way that has been both confronting and illuminating. I’ve always been conscious about the different roles I’ve played around family and friends (especially when I was trying to hide my sexuality), so writing He’s So MASC was a chance to unpick why I do that and question what my true, authentic self is (if there is such a thing). I think it’s inevitable that we play different roles in our day-to-day lives – for some people it’s a survival technique – so it’s important to understand what effect this might have on you or others in the long-term. I do have some fun with this in my book by writing in different voices and assuming multiple identities throughout, but the “I” is 100% me and all of it based on my own experiences.
The way your poetry explores identity feels deeply personal but also political. What do you think the role is of the politically-engaged writer/artist today?
Sometimes I jokingly tell myself that writing poetry made me a political person. The truth is it was there all the time, but poetry became the outlet through which I was able to articulate my frustrations and concerns about the world. A lot of the poets I’ve been reading over the last few years (Claudia Rankine, Terence Hayes, Ocean Vuong, Chen Chen) use their work to intensely interrogate the intersection of the personal and the political. It’s vital that we have writers like this to prompt conversations and, in many cases, to provide alternative points of view from the established voices that have dominated literary and political discourse. For someone like me, who does not fit what the ‘majority’ looks like, writing is a very political act, a way to challenge the status quo and use whatever platform you might have available to shed light on issues that need addressing.
Why do you think it’s so vital to ensure the art of performing poetry is kept alive?
As much as I love hiding somewhere with a poetry book, the chance to see and hear poets perform their work opens up and energises those lines of connection between poet and reader. I’m definitely left buzzing after performing to a crowd and being able to soak in their immediate response. Poetry is often misunderstood or seen as inaccessible, but the rise in popularity of poetry – in all of its many forms – is evidence of people’s desire for writing that speaks to the urgency of contemporary issues, and the art of performing poetry enables that work to reach much more diverse audiences. In one of his first interviews after being named New Zealand’s new Poet Laureate earlier this year, David Eggleton said, “We have got to a situation where people trust poems more than they trust the news – the authenticity of the emotion in a poem speaks more profoundly now than ever.”
Which poets inspire your work?
As well as the poets I’ve mentioned above, Maggie Nelson, Omar Sakr, Hanif Abdurraqib and Mark Leidner have all had a profound effect on me as a writer in recent years. I’m particularly drawn to their experimentation with form and how they use it to test the reader’s expectations of what poetry can be or do. Closer to home, poetry is having a bit of a moment, as they say, in New Zealand with the emergence and success of some very exciting and unique new voices. If I were to name just a few, I recommend that people check out Tayi Tibble, essa may ranapiri, Gregory Kan, Sam Duckor-Jones, and Nina Mingya Powles. Their work is pushing New Zealand poetry into some uncharted territories. I feel so fortunate to be writing and publishing at the same time as these wonderful poets.
Which events or authors at Cheltenham Literature Festival are you most looking forward to?
The Cheltenham Literature Festival might very well be the biggest literature I’ve ever attended, so I feel very overwhelmed by the number of events on offer! One of the first events I’ve got lined up is The Role of the Poetry Critic featuring Jeremy Noel-Tod, Sandeep Parmar and Mary Jean Chan, whose book Flèche I’ve just started reading and am really enjoying. Bang Said The Gun looks like it’s going to be a fun way to spend my Friday night in Cheltenham. I’m also looking forward to seeing Anthony Anaxagorou, Esmé Weijun Wan and Damian Barr.
[ Bio ]
Chris Tse is the author of two poetry collections, How to Be Dead in a Year of Snakes (finalist at the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards and winner of the Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book of Poetry) and He’s So MASC. He has been involved with some of Wellington’s leading arts and cultural events, including being Lit Crawl Wellington’s inaugural Guest Curator in 2018.
Twitter – @chrisjtse
Cheltenham Literature Festival
From current affairs to food, history to fashion, sport to art, science to travel, the Festival guarantees something for everyone with the fun extending long after dark with the eclectic Off The Page series of curated events, including a Game of Thrones quiz night, US story-telling sensation The Moth, jazz and poetry fusion group Tongue Fu, an evening celebrating the music of Joni Mitchell and a vibrant spoken word strand. And for one night only the irreverent Lit Crawl returns to take over the streets, pubs and bars of Cheltenham.
The perfect family day out, this year’s Festival includes a packed programme of world class authors and illustrators to inspire toddlers to teens, with The Woodland Trust Wild Wood filled with beloved characters, storytellers and activities, plus a Secret Seven Mystery Trail celebrating 70 years of the world’s favourite detective club. The Festival’s year-round education programmes, inspiring a love of reading and creative writing, also culminates in October with 9,000 school children on site taking part in Literature for Schools.
New partner Sky Arts will broadcast across the final week with live coverage, interviews and events from a bespoke Sky Arts Studio on site. The venue will be a free pop-in space where festival attendees can be part of the filming and take part in other creative activities. Elsewhere on site there will be free events for all ages around the Festival village, The Huddle, hosting an array of talks and brains teasers, including Daily Crossword, Cheltenham Writes and Very Short Introductions, and The Chatterbox, where guests can become secret agents by decoding mysterious messages around the Festival.
—-> Festival Brochure
For Full Details – https://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/literature