Preview: Poetry&Words at Glastonbury Festival 2023

Poetry&Words is the only stage dedicated to poetry at Glastonbury Festival. Each year they host a variety of poetic talent – spoken word and performance poets, rappers and even the occasional word-loving musician – from the newest names to watch around the UK and beyond, to world-renowned wordsmiths such as Carol Ann Duffy, Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze, Phil Jupitus, Dizraeli and the Small Gods and Kate Tempest.

Possibly unique to the festival is that anyone can apply to perform on the Poetry&Words stage. Opening early in the year, a call out of applicants sees the stage organisers sift through the many applicants to curate a line-up that really does balance between rising stars and festival veterans.

This year is no different. Here’s some of the picks of a truly amazing line-up.

John Hegley

Currently touring his newest show The Biscuit of Destiny, inspired by John Keats. In a career full of highlights, he has delivered performance poetry, stand-up comedy, music, and worked on radio, television and more. “Being something of a cat on hot bricks, it has been beneficial to not just have the one brick,” he told us earlier this year. He closes the tent on Friday evening.

John Hegley plays at 6:10pm on Friday

Murray Lachlan Young

Acclaimed performer, writer, children’s author, screenwriter, BBC 6 Music Poet in Residence and Radio 4 regular – Murray Lachlan Young is one of the best-known poetry voices in Britain. He takes readers and audiences on a delightful satirical romp into the bizarre facets of fame, fashion, politics and rock-n-roll reverie from acclaimed performer.

A hybrid mix of hilarious stand up, verse and song, flamboyant, punchy wit, brooding subtext and empathetic humour. Expect a charming dip into much-loved work from Murray’s recent hit anthology ‘How Freakin’ Zeitgeist Are You.’ Playing before John Hegley, it’s a chance of a great one-two from two poetry masters

Murray Lachlan Young plays at 5:34pm on Friday

Katie Ailes

This year’s Glastonbury Poet in Residence is Katie Ailes, is one of the rising stars of this year’s line-up. An award-winning poet, producer, and educator based in Edinburgh, she focuses on performance poetry and works as a producer with I Am Loud Productions, co-devising and performing spoken word shows with them across the UK.

This is her first time at Glastonbury and I’ve Never Been, her first poem as poet in residence which has been written in advance of the festival, perfectly captures the excitement that builds ahead of a trip to Worthy Farm as someone who has usually watched from afar; ‘I usually watch on TV / see the headliners’ sets / as the sun sets / over Somerset’ – as well as the obsessions we gain in the run-up, ‘So I’m preparing for everything, / leaving little to chance— / I was checking the weather three months in advance.’

Katie Ailes performs on Sunday at 4:23pm

Griot Gabriel

Griot Gabriel’s poetry is influenced by his upbringing in Black urban culture, exploring masculinity, political discourse, racial identity, experiences of inner-city young people, their challenges and relevant social issues. He is the founder of The Poetry Place, a collective that provides a platform for new and established poets to perform.

Griot Gabriel performs on Friday at 11:58am and Saturday at 3:51pm

Leyla Josephine

Another of the stage’s rising stars, Leyla Josephine is a performance poet, theatre maker, screenwriter, facilitator and project leader. She has had poems featured in The National, The Scotsman, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Upworthy, BBC Scotland, BBC Radio 4, BBC Social and Gutter magazine – so her star really is on the ascendancy.

If you want a flavour of her work in advance, she has also released a live album Archive:Live! which is available on all streaming sites. One to watch.

Leyla Josephine performs on Friday at 1:22pm and Sunday at 2:57pm