‘We are living in extraordinary times, I wanted to respond but had the urge to offer more than one voice, more than one perspective. Not an echo chamber’ says Cerys Matthews. The album (To be released on Decca on 15th January 2021) is composed by Cerys Matthews with Hidden Orchestra and features 10 UK poets: MA.MOYO, Raymond Antrobus, Lemn Sissay, Liz Berry, Anthony Anaxagorou, Adam Horovitz, Cia Mangat, Imtiaz Dharker, Kim Moore and Kayo Chingonyi
In February 2020 Abbey Road studios welcomed each of the 10 poets to record pieces from their collections. Then lock down hit. But remotely and with the additional help of field recordists and musicians around the world, Cerys and Joe Acheson (Hidden Orchestra) created a sound journey for these poems with the theme of Genesis: Birth, heritage, a journey about to begin.
Cerys says: ‘I’ve always been in awe of the power of a great turn of phrase; in poems, songs and prose. There are some exceptional poems being added to the world right now. So I invited poets whose work I admired and had championed for years to join me in this project. I selected poems which worked across and with each other to become a journey, an aural adventure.’
‘I’m hoping it’ll be the first in a series of poem song albums on Decca, with life on earth as inspiration. As simple and complex as that. The theme for this then, like the first, had to begin at the beginning: Genesis.
Best-selling author, award-winning DJ and multi-million selling musician, Cerys Mathews presented BBC 2’s My Life in Verse in 2007 and regularly reads poems and excerpts on her 6 music show, mixing them with contemporary music live on air.
Cerys released the official National Poetry Day anthology Tell Me The Truth About Life with Michael O’Mara books in 2019, was a judge for the Forward Prizes for Poetry and the Dylan Thomas Prize, is Vice President for Hay Festival of Literature and Art, an artistic advisor for MIF (Manchester International Festival), and patron of the Dylan Thomas society and Ballet Cymru . She supports the work of Poet in the City, Foyle Young Poet of the Year Award and other literary organisations. Cerys founded a culture and food festival, The Good Life Experience, in 2013.
Hidden Orchestra is the solo studio project of Joe Acheson – a composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, sound artist, remixer and documentary-maker, who has musically collaborated with The British Library, National Trust, BBC, IRCAM (Paris), Amanita Design (Prague), Eden Project, Kew Gardens, Saatchi Gallery, Sydney Botanical Gardens and many more.
For this project, Joe creates an imaginary orchestra compiled from individual recordings of a diverse array of musicians and found sounds, often writing short solo and chamber pieces entirely for the purpose of sampling them using production techniques from sample-based music to compose classical music using acoustic instruments, and real-world sounds from rain and birdsong through to industrial and mechanical noises. A darkly emotive soundworld of orchestral textures and field recording soundscapes are driven by complex drum arrangements and deep bass.
The live band version of Hidden Orchestra has toured extensively around the world with a constantly fluctuating lineup and innovative live visuals and is equally at home in festivals, clubs, cinemas, museums, churches and concert halls – from Glastonbury to the Royal Albert Hall.
MA.MOYO (Belinda Zhawi )is a Zimbabwean born writer, sound artist & educator currently based in London. Her work explores Afro-diasporic research & narratives; how art & education can be used as intersectional tools. She was the 2016–2017 Institute of Contemporary Arts Associate Poet, is the 2019 Serpentine Galleries’ Schools Artist in Residence & co-founder of, literary arts platform, BORN: FREE. Belinda is the author of Small Inheritances (Ignition Press, 2018) and micro-pamphlet, South of South East (Bad Betty Press, 2019)
Raymond Antrobus was born in London, Hackney to an English mother and Jamaican father, he is the author of Shapes & Disfigurements, To Sweeten Bitter and The Perseverance. In 2019 he became the first-ever poet to be awarded the Rathbone Folio Prize for best work of literature in any genre.
Other accolades include the Ted Hughes award, PBS Winter Choice, A Sunday Times Young Writer of the year award & The Guardian Poetry Book Of The Year 2018, as well as a shortlist for the Griffin Prize and Forward Prize. In 2018 he was awarded ‘The Geoffrey Dearmer Prize’, (Judged by Ocean Vuong), for his poem Sound Machine. Also in 2019, his poem Jamaican British was added to the GCSE syllabus.
He is the recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem, Complete Works 3 and Jerwood Compton. He is also one of the world’s first recipients of an MA in Spoken Word education from Goldsmiths University. His poetry has appeared on BBC 2, BBC Radio 4, The Big Issue, The Jamaica Gleaner, The Guardian and at Tedx EastEnd.
Lemn Sissay is a BAFTA-nominated award-winning writer, international poet, performer playwright, artist and broadcaster. He has read on stage throughout the world: from The Library of Congress in The United States to The University of Addis Ababa, from Singapore to Sri Lanka, Bangalore to Dubai, from Bali to Greenland AND Wigan library.
He was awarded an MBE for services to literature and along with Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie and Margaret Atwood, won a Pen Pinter Prize in 2019. He is Chancellor of The University of Manchester and an Honorary Doctor from The Universities of Huddersfield, Manchester, Kent and Brunei. Lemn was the first poet commissioned to write for the London Olympics and also wrote for the FA Cup. His memoir My Name is Why, published in 2019, continues to win awards and accolades, and top best-selling charts across the world.
Cia is a top 15 winner in the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award 2019, as well as a top 15 winner in 2017 and 2018, and was a commended Foyle Young Poet in 2016. She is also a commended poet in the meme challenge, written and judged by poet Rishi Dastidar, on Young Poets Network; is commended in the Riddle Me This poetry challenge; and is a runner-up in the BBC Proms Poetry Competition 2017.
Anthony Anaxagorou is a British-born Cypriot poet, fiction writer, essayist, publisher and poetry educator. His poetry has been published in POETRY, The Poetry Review, Poetry London, New Statesman, Granta, and appeared on BBC Newsnight, BBC Radio 4, ITV, Vice UK, Channel 4 and Sky Arts.
His second collection After the Formalities published with Penned in the Margins is a Poetry Book Society recommendation and was shortlisted for the 2019 T.S Eliot Prize. It was also a Telegraph and Guardian poetry book of the year.
He was awarded the 2019 H-100 Award for writing and publishing, and the 2015 Groucho Maverick Award for his poetry and fiction. In 2019 he was made an honorary fellow of the University of Roehampton. Anthony is the artistic director of Out-Spoken, a monthly poetry and music night held at London’s Southbank Centre, and publisher of Out-Spoken Press. He has recently published How to Write It: Write your story, a masterclass in the craft.
Kim Moore was born in 1981 and lives and works in Cumbria. Her first full-length collection The Art of Falling was published by Seren in April 2015 and won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. She won a New Writing North Award in 2014, an Eric Gregory Award in 2011 and the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize in 2012. Kim will be judging the 2018 National Poetry Competition, along with Kei Miller and Mark Waldron.
Her first pamphlet If We Could Speak Like Wolves was a winner in The Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition, judged by Carol Ann Duffy. If We Could Speak Like Wolves was chosen as an Independent Book of the Year in 2012 and was shortlisted for the Michael Marks Pamphlet Award and the Lakeland Book of the Year Award.
Liz Berry was born in the Black Country and now lives in Birmingham. Her first book of poems, Black Country (Chatto 2014), described as a sooty, soaring hymn to her native West Midlands (Guardian) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, received a Somerset Maugham Award and won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Award and Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2014.
Liz’s pamphlet The Republic of Motherhood (Chatto, 2018) was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice and the title poem won the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem 2018. A new book of her collaboration with Black Country photographer Tom Hicks will be published by Hercules Editions in 2021. Liz is a patron of Writing West Midlands and works as a tutor for organizations including the Arvon Foundation and The Poetry School.
Adam Horovitz is a poet, journalist and editor. Born in London in 1971, he moved with his parents to Stroud, Gloucestershire, the same year. He has appeared at numerous festivals and venues around Britain since the early 1990s and his work has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including 1914: Poetry Remember’s (Faber, 2014). He has also been the poet in residence for Glastonbury Festival website (2009)
He has released three pamphlets: Next Year in Jerusalem (2004), The Great Unlearning(2009) and Waiting for the Flame (Yew Tree Press, 2014). His first full collection of poems, Turning, was published by Headland in 2011. He was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship in 2012. His memoir about growing up in Cider with Rosie’ country, A Thousand Laurie Lees, was published by the History Press in 2014. He was a judge for the Manchester Poetry Prize and the inaugural Bare Fiction poetry prize in 2014.
Kayo Chingonyi is a fellow of the Complete Works programme for diversity and quality in British Poetry and the author of two pamphlets, Some Bright Elegance (Salt, 2012) and The Colour of James Brown’s Scream (Akashic, 2016). His first full-length collection, Kumukanda was published in June 2017 by Chatto & Windus and went on to win the Dylan Thomas Prize and a Somerset Maugham Award. Kayo has been invited to read from his work at venues and events across the UK and internationally.
He was awarded the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize and has completed residencies with Kingston University, Cove Park, First Story, The Nuffield Council on Bioethics, and the Royal Holloway University of London in partnership with Counterpoints Arts.
He was Associate Poet at the Institute of Contemporary Arts from Autumn 2015 to Spring 2016, Anthony Burgess Fellow at Manchester University in 2018, and co-edited issue 62 of Magma Poetry and the Autumn 2016 edition of The Poetry Review. He is now poetry editor for The White Review. Kayo is also an emcee, producer, and DJ and regularly collaborates with musicians and composers both as a poet and a lyricist.
Imtiaz Dharker is a poet, artist and video film-maker. She was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2014 and became Chancellor of Newcastle University in 2020. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, she has been Poet in Residence at Cambridge University Library and has worked on several projects across art forms in Leeds, Newcastle and Hull, as well as the Archives of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Her six collections include Over the Moon and the latest, Luck Is the Hook, published by Bloodaxe Books UK. Her poems have featured widely on radio and television, as well as the London Underground and Mumbai buses. She has had eleven solo exhibitions of drawings around the world, and scripts and directs video films, many of them for non-government organisations working in the area of shelter, education and health for women and children in India.
‘Whether she writes of exile, childhood, politics or grief, her clear-eyed attention brings each subject dazzlingly into focus. She makes it look easy, this clarity and economy, but it is her deft phrasing, wit and grace that create this immediacy. Reading her, one feels that were there to be a World Laureate, Imtiaz Dharker would be the only candidate’ says Carol Ann Duffy