Belfast Book Festival
Alert to pressures of the climate crisis and contested grounds, but also the radical potential in gestures of naming, this year’s festival joins together three poets - Zaffar Kunial, Jess McKinney and Emma Must - whose recent publications crisscross endangered biomes with humane paths, unbinding landscape in voluptuously detailed poetry.
Zaffar Kunial was born in Birmingham and lives in Hebden Bridge. He published a pamphlet in the Faber New Poets series in 2014 and spent that year as the Wordsworth Trust Poet-in-Residence. Since his first public reading, of Hill Speak at the 2011 National Poetry Competition awards, he has spoken at various literature festivals and in programmes for BBC radio, and won the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize for his poem The Word. His debut collection, Us, was published in 2019 and his much anticipated second collection, England’s Green, was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2022.
Jess McKinney is a writer from Inishowen, Donegal. Her work has appeared in The Winter Papers, The Moth, The Stinging Fly, Banshee, Abridged, The Poetry Jukebox, along with anthologies by Poetry Ireland and New Island Press. She completed her MA in Poetry at Queen’s University Belfast, where she was awarded the Irish Chair of Poetry Student Award. Her debut pamphlet Weeding was published with Hazel Press, later shortlisted for the Patrick Kavanagh and Saboteur Award. In 2022 she took part in the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series, received an Artist Bursary from the Donegal County Council, and the Irish Chair of Poetry Bursary Award.
Emma Must is a poet living in Belfast. Formerly a full-time environmental campaigner, in 2021 she completed a PhD in English (Creative Writing) at Queen’s University Belfast, focusing on ecopoetry and ecocriticism. Her first full-length poetry collection, The Ballad of Yellow Wednesday, was published by Valley Press in December 2022. Emma’s poem Toll won the Environmental Defenders Prize in the 2019 Ginkgo Prize for Ecopoetry; her debut poetry pamphlet, Notes on the Use of the Austrian Scythe (2015), won the Templar Portfolio Award.
Mary Montague is a biologist by background, with a PhD in ornithology. Her collections are Tribe (Dedalus 2008) and Black Wolf on a White Plain (Summer Palace 2001). Her poems have been included in number of of anthologies, including Queering the Green (ed. Paul Maddern, Lifeboat 2021), and have been translated into French, Italian and Russian. She was a 2019 recipient of a Poetry Ireland Tyrone Guthrie Centre Mid-career Bursary. She contributes to The Guardian’s Country Diary.