There is, perhaps, nothing that captures the essence of the vibrant, thriving Bristol poetry scene more than the Lyrically Justified anthologies. Along with Burning Eye Books’ prolific output; the arrival of poetry festival, Lyra; the continued expansion of regular live events hosted by Milk, Raise the Bar, Blahblahblah, That’s What She Said, Satellite of Love and others; the prominent role of Bristol City Poet, Vanessa Kisuule, in the city’s cultural life, and many more examples, the Lyrically Justified anthologies are right at the pulsating heart of Bristol poetry.
So the publication of a third volume, which will be officially launched at Waterstones in The Galleries on November 25, in just over three years is definitely a cause for celebration.
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Put together by Urban Word Collective, the latest Lyrically Justified collection is, as in the previous volumes, dominated by Bristol poets while also including work from poets based in Leeds, London, Manchester and elsewhere in the UK. And in what is a major scoop, there is also a contribution from legendary New York collective, The Last Poets, who formed during the African American civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Urban Word Collective aim to provide “a platform for creative and insightful writing which stimulates and provokes change for the better”. The organisation, based in Upper York Street in St Paul’s, principally publish the Lyrically Justified anthologies, but also act as an agency for poets, and programme events at various venues around the city.
Among the 70 featured poets in the latest volume, there is a refreshing mix of well-known and emerging writers. Bristol poetry fans will be well aware of contributors such as Melanie Branton, Lawrence Hoo, Lucy English, Leeza Awojobi, Callum Wensley and co-editor and Urban Word Collective’s founder Shaun Clarke; while the introduction of not so well-known poets is a welcome addition to the collection.
The book is filled with an urgent, arresting spirit. Common themes include identity, the environment, politics, race; there is also the longing for a sense of community and home which comes across very strongly throughout the anthology. And this feels very apt as it is exactly what the anthologies, and the other work Urban Word Collective undertake, are achieving; the building of a community.
Co-editor, Urban Word Collective co-founder, and anthology contributor Shaun Clarke, explains how the editorial team approach the task of selecting writers to include in the anthologies: “Poets are invited via our extensive networks or ventures, or recommended by colleagues, some visible and aspiring, while others are yet to be discovered.”
On what he hopes readers will take from the book, he goes on to say: “We hope this book will inform and provide insight into different coexisting UK based cultures and perspectives.”
Lyrically Justified Volume 3, along with its two predecessors, provides a valuable portrait of the current dynamic era of Bristol poetry; the collections also place Bristol right at the heart of the nation’s poetry activity.
The latest Lyrically Justified anthology will be officially launched at Waterstones, Bristol Galleries on November 25. For more information, visit https://www.waterstones.com/events/urban-word-collective-presents-lyrically-justified-3/bristol-galleries