National Poets Day
21 August is National Poets Day and to celebrate, we’re taking a look at Brian Bilston and Henry Normal – two poets who have risen to success with their entertaining verse, and who will be visiting City Varieties in six months’ time on 21 Feb 2024.
Written by Aaron Cawood
Brian Bilston and Henry Normal appear together for the first time in a show which one critic has described as ‘two people reading some poems.’
Along the way, they will be drawing on their vast catalogue of crowd favourites, and throwing in new poems, to prevent becoming their own tribute bands.
Not ones to overpromise, Brian and Henry are prepared to commit to delivering the greatest poetry show in the history of the world: an evening of poems to be enjoyed, not endured.
Brian Bilston, known by many as ‘the Banksy of poetry’, found success through his comedic verses and twisty punchlines. Amassing an audience on social media, Brian writes with modern and alternative styles, often playing with the shape and form of his works and inevitably making the reader laugh, think or, often, do both along the way.
Tweeting his poem You Took the Last Bus Home in 2014 and starting to generate a following from then, it wouldn’t be until 2016 that Bilston would go on to publish his first poetry collection under the same title. As his readership grew, he would become known as the unofficial poet laureate of Twitter – a title which he has only come to fulfil more with each viral poem.
From his first collection, Brian went on to publish further works, including poetry for children and his novel Diary of a Somebody which was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel award. From poems about football to poems about current affairs, like the now iconic Refugees, Brian Bilston has set himself up in the middle point of a Venn diagram between comedy and commentary – a tone which only became more popular with the masses during the pandemic.
Writer, poet and producer Henry Normal has been described as ‘the Alan Bennett of poetry.’ (Scotsman) His first collection of poems, Is Love Science Fiction?, was published in 1975 when he was only aged 19, and he would go on to spend the next decade performing poems across the north with the collective Live Poets Society.
In 1994, he’d go on to perform Encyclopedia Poetica on BBC Radio 4, which was a collection of four shows in which he took the audience through an alphabet of stand-up poetry, each dictated by letters through the alphabet. He would go on to retire in 2016, producing further shows for BBC Radio 4 – a series which included A Normal Home and A Normal Life.
In the world of publishing, Henry continued to find critical acclaim, with his latest collection Collected Poems Vol. 3 published as recently as last week, with A Moonless Night to follow next year. His memoir works, including A Normal Family: Everyday adventures with our autistic son which earned a spot as an immediate Amazon best-seller, have become similarly beloved.
Henry recently received his honorary doctorate from Nottingham Trent University, and continues to impress audiences at literary festivals across the UK.
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