pj harvey gives young refugees a platform for their poetry

Polly Jean is (again) merging art and activism to mark National Poetry Day.

by Hannah Ongley
07 October 2016, 9:12am

Earlier this year PJ Harvey riled up American politicians by likening an impoverished part of Washington DC to Kosovo and Afghanistan for a song off her journalistic new album The Hope Six Demolition Project. The comparison prompted Mayor and Ward 7 council seat candidate Vince Gray to claim he would "not dignify this inane composition with a response" and his campaign treasurer to draw a far more ridiculous parallel by saying that "PJ Harvey is to music what Piers Morgan is to cable news." LOL. All of this was hardly a deterrent to Harvey, who has in actuality been merging art and activism since 2011's Let England Shake. But for now, she's shifting her focus back home. Harvey's new project is a collaboration with young refugee poets, who will have their words featured in readings, films, performances, and workshops broadcast on the UK's channel 4. The initiative will form part of Channel 4's National Poetry Day series. 

"A poem can reach places that prose just can't," National Poetry Day director Susannah Herbert explained to the Guardian. "That's why we're inviting all with anything important to say today to say it with a poem. It can be new or old, utterly original or a familiar favourite. It can be deep and dark, funny or memorable. By enjoying, discovering or sharing a poem — words that draw attention to themselves — you change the nature of the national conversation."

Last year Harvey published a book of her own poetry, The Hollow of the Hand, inspired by her journeys through Kosovo, Afghanistan, and DC with photographer and her frequent collaborator Seamus Murphy. While those won't feature on the Channel 4 programming, what is will surely be no less moving. 


Text Hannah Ongley
Photography Christie Goodwin

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