Fierce Light

10 – 28 May 2016

SOurce: 14-18NOW

Perhaps no art form captured the complexity and terror of the First World War more acutely than poetry. Drawing on their experiences, poets used their art to reflect on the war’s impact: from the horrors of the battlefield to the ways in which the conflict rendered a familiar world unrecognisable to those left living in it.

Fierce Light brought together leading poets from countries that participated in the First World War, including Yrsa Daley-Ward, Jackie Kay, Bill Manhire, Paul Muldoon and Daljit Nagra, to create new works that endeavour to understand the incomprehensible; exploring contemporary events while also contemplating the First World War.

Launching with an exhibition and a special live event, Fierce Light featured the poets during the City of Literature programme at Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2016, before the poems and films were presented on radio, at other literary festivals and online.

The event and exhibition at Norfolk & Norwich Festival also included Simon Armitage’s commission Still, which has been published into a book. The film Known Unto God by Poet Bill Manhire and filmmaker Suzie Hanna was selected to be part of the competition of the Zebra Poetry Film Festival Münster/Berlin in 2016.

Co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW, Norfolk & Norwich Festival and Writers’ Centre Norwich


A series of specially commissioned short films were made in response to the new poems and themes raised within them. Watch them here.


Listen to the Fierce Light artists read their poems on BBC Radio 3

Paul Muldoon reads July 1st 1916, With the Ulster Division
Yrsa Daley Ward reads When your mother calls you
Bill Manhire reads Known Unto God
Jackie Kay reads Private Joseph Kay
Daljit Nagra reads On your ‘A 1940 Memory’