Leo Boix, Haikus for the Pandemic (installed on West Quay), 2022. Photo: Samuel Taylor

Dzifa Benson
Poetry Programme

Saturday 11 June – Sunday 19 June 2022

Various locations

A programme of live events, readings, and written texts installed around Whitstable, curated by poet-in-residence Dzifa Benson. 

“As poet-in-residence for Whitstable Biennale 2022, my immediate vision for how poetry could become an indelible part of the programme brought together five considerations: Whitstable’s landmark harbour; the town and its citizens; the estuarine meeting of its waters; a desire to embed poetry into the materiality of the festival’s sites; and the overarching theme of the festival, Afterwardness, inspired by Mimi Khalvati’s haunting sonnet of the same name, a term originally coined by Sigmund Freud to define the belated understanding of past events that coalesces with the passing of time.

The quest to embed poetry into the festival’s materiality was a rich provocation to all the poets whose words appear, and means that you will encounter poetry in unexpected ways during your time at the Biennale.

Through its poetry programming, Whitstable Biennale is greeting so many cultures, communities and countries. The heritage of the featured poets spans Iran, Argentina, Ethiopia, Ghana, Pakistan, Jamaica, India, Ireland, England, Nigeria, Brazil, Italy, Zimbabwe, the Netherlands, China, Poland, Austria, Canada, Zambia and Somalia. And we are all British. It has been thoughtful, playful and joyful to curate Whitstable Biennale 2022’s poetic offerings. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I have when you meet the poems too!” — Dzifa Benson


Dzifa Benson
@ Wooden Jetty (near West Quay)
A new poem written especially for the festival appears and disappears with the tide, on a wooden jetty that juts out into the sea on the pebbles of the beach next to the West Quay.

Mimi Khalvati
@ Whitstable Harbour (Outside South Quay Shed)
Mimi Khalvati’s signature poem from which we take our Whitstable Biennale 2022 title, Afterwardness, is writ large on the Harbour.

Denise Saul, Dzifa Benson, Nasser Hussain, & Nii Ayikwei Parkes
@ Whitstable Harbour (Flags on boats)
These poems include thoughts on a mother’s death, anti-black racism, and lost cities, and venture out to sea and return to harbour on the flags of cockle-fishing boats. With many thanks to Cardium Shellfish.

Leo Boix
@ West Quay
Avid open water swimmer Leo Boix’s Haikus for the Pandemic are juxtaposed against the NO SWIMMING signs that warn people off at the West Quay.

Dzifa Benson
@ Whitstable Boat Trips
A new poem that takes its inspiration from a sea shanty, to be found together with the flyers at the Whitstable Boat Trips stall next to Dead Man’s Corner in Whitstable Harbour.


Roger Robinson
@ V.C. Jones
Roger Robinson’s poem, My Grandmother Was A Beige Hat, serendipitously, mentions fish and chips so that’s what you’ll find your fish and chips wrapped in. We’re also celebrating the 60th anniversary of V.C. Jones.

Dzifa Benson
@ Whitstable Produce Store
A new poem, recited by local people in a film, is embedded in a QR code in the window of Whitstable Produce Store.

Mona Arshi
@ Sundae Sundae
Mona Arshi’s little gem of a poem, The Humble Insistence, melts into your soul with your ice-cream.

Sean Hewitt
@ Harbour Books
The poem Still, featured at Harbour Books.

Dzifa Benson
@ Frank
A QR code leads to a reading of I Told It to the Sea, in an unexpected place.


Bohdan Piasecki, Dzifa Benson, Jamie Hale, Karen McCarthy Woolf, Nasser Hussain, Patrizia Longhitano, Sandeep Parmar & Yomi Sode
@ The Old Bank
Eight poets have contributed deeply affecting poems about the nature of love, which are to be found emblazoned on the boarded-up windows of an old bank on the High Street.

Joelle Taylor
@ The Old Bank
The poem colony, contemplates the colonisation of the female body, drawn out across a room.

Poetry films
@ The Old Bank
Ten poetry films collected together, including poems by Leo Boix, Malika Booker, Kayo Chingonyi, Caleb Femi, Mona Arshi, Mimi Khalvati, Karen McCarthy Woolf, Sarah Howe, Roger Robinson, and Warsan Shire.

See the festival programme for details of poetry performances and workshops.