Vital Discussions: Salena Godden, Jack Underwood, Kit de Waal and Alex Wheatle
Presented live on stage at Hay Festival Winter Weekend. Limited in-person tickets are available for RSL Members on a first-come first-served basis. Log in to book a ticket or join here. Purchase in-person and online tickets and to Hay Festival Winter Weekend via the festival website from Wednesday 29 September.
‘I measure every grief I meet with narrow, probing, eyes
I wonder if it weighs like Mine – or has an Easier size.’
- Emily Dickinson
Led by Salena Godden, this panel discussion will welcome Kit de Waal, Alex Wheatle and Jack Underwood to explore our changed understanding of grief as we emerge from the pandemic and begin to measure its personal and collective impact.
Our panellists will discuss the grief of ‘what could have been’ as a loss equal to that of what once was; they will examine how the pandemic denied us the experiences that punctuate life, as well as those that mark the passing of loved ones; and they will reflect on the absence we experience at the loss of our lives as we knew them before.
Drawing on personal experience, the panel will celebrate literature’s power to help us make sense of the world, provide perspective, and enable us to envision different versions of our reality.
Salena Godden is a high-profile poet, activist, broadcaster, essayist and memoirist whose work has been widely anthologised. Canongate pre-empted world rights to her debut novel Mrs Death Misses Death, which was published in January 2021.
Kit de Waal, born to an Irish mother and Caribbean father, was brought up among the Irish community of Birmingham in the ‘60's and ‘70's. Her debut novel, My Name Is Leon, was an international bestseller, shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize and won the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award for 2017. Her second novel, The Trick to Time, was longlisted for the Women's Prize and her Young Adult novel, Becoming Dinah, was longlisted for the Carnegie CILIP Award 2020. She also crowdfunded and edited an anthology of working-class memoirs, Common People, which was published in 2018. Kit was named the FutureBook Person of the Year in 2019. Her latest publication, Supporting Cast, a collection of short stories, was published in 2020.
Jack Underwood is a poet, writer and critic. His debut collection of poems, Happiness, was published by Faber in 2015 and won the Somerset Maugham Award. He is the recipient of an Eric Gregory Award and a draft of Not Even This was shortlisted for the Arts Foundation's award for Creative Non-fiction in 2017. His work has appeared in The Poetry Review, Poetry London, Five Dials, The New Statesman, the Observer, TLS, Poetry, The White Review and Tate etc., as well as internationally and in translation. He is a Senior Lecturer in English and Creative Writing at Goldsmiths College.
Alex Wheatle MBE is a YA novelist, poet and playwright. Alex’s first novel, Brixton Rock, was published to critical acclaim in 1999. Five more novels, East of Acre Lane, The Seven Sisters, Island Songs, Checkers and The Dirty South followed, all highly praised. He is Creative Writing Lecturer in Children & Young Adult fiction at Manchester Metropolitan University. Alex was awarded an MBE for services to literature in 2008. Alex's life story featured in Alex Wheatle, the fourth BBC film in the Steve McQueen anthology Small Axe.
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