Celebrating DW250: A Virtual Christmas Birthday

December 17th 2021, 7.30-9.00pm, GMT

This is the day when kindred meet
Round one accustomed social fire […]
Where faithful love through trying years has stood all proof.

Dorothy Wordsworth, ‘Christmas Day’, 5th January 1837

Join us for the first of a series of online events celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Dorothy Wordsworth. A week ahead of Dorothy’s Christmas Day birthday, we’ll hear from poet Sarah Doyle, who will read poems collaged from Dorothy’s Grasmere Journals from her pamphlet Something So Wild And New In This Feeling (V press, 2020); from poet Sarah Corbett and artist Zoë Benbow about their collaborative project Dorothy’s Colour, and how Dorothy came to be part of Corbett’s collection A Perfect Mirror (Pavilion, 2018); from Alan Cleaver, who will transport us back to Dorothy’s Christmases through his new book, A Lake District Christmas (Inspired by Lakeland, 2021), and from Vahni Anthony Ezekiel Capildeo, about their initial work on the DW250 commission. Hosted and introduced by Polly Atkin.

This event will also introduce the six artists commissioned to make new work in response to Dorothy Wordsworth’s life and work: Ananya Rao-Middleton; Daisy Lafarge; Hannah Hodgson; Polly Atkin; Vahni Anthony Ezekiel Capildeo and The Bookshop Band.

All events will be held on zoom with captions by


Sarah Corbett has published five collections of poetry, including the verse novel And She Was (Pavilion, 2015), and most recently A Perfect Mirror (Pavilion Poetry/Liverpool University Press, 2018), which takes its title from Dorothy Wordsworth’s Grasmere Journals and emerged as part of her collaborative project, ‘Dorothy’s Colour’ with the visual artist, Zoe Benbow’, in 2017. Sarah also writes fiction and has won two Northern Writer’s Awards for fiction. She is currently working on her second novel and a sixth work in poetry. Sarah teaches Creative Writing for Lancaster University and lives in Hebden Bridge, where she will direct the first Sylvia Plath Literary Festival in 2022.

Zoe Benbow is a studio-based independent artist with many years professional experience living in Hackney with her teenage son. Zoe’s recent paintings explore the subject of trees as an expression of the accessible wilderness on our doorstep. These paintings developed in her London studio and inspired by photographs and drawings gathered in the wooded landscapes of Grasmere touch on landscape as remembered in fleeting moments.

By revisiting these images through the process of painting and repeatedly exploring the same motifs over a long period of time, the resultant canvases become about an implied landscape, a landscape of the mind’s eye. It is perhaps in this way, that painting comes closest to poetry, in proposing to give us fragments of time and intrigue, reference points by which we can colour the bigger picture to re-imagine and reframe our individual and thus universal experience.

Vahni (Anthony Ezekiel) Capildeo FRSL works in non-fiction, poetry, and at the crossover of visual and theatre arts, including expanded translation and traditional masquerade. Capildeo is Writer in Residence and Professor at the University of York and a Honorary Student of Christ Church, Oxford. Their eight books and nine pamphlets include Like a Tree, Walking (Carcanet, 2021) and Gentle Housework of the Sacrifice (Guillemot, forthcoming 2022). A Visiting Scholar position at Pembroke College, Cambridge supported Capildeo’s continuing work on silence around particular sets of trees.

Alan Cleaver is author of a number of books on Cumbrian history, including Corpse Roads of Cumbria, which won the Lakeland Book of the Year award in 2019. His professional background is in regional journalism but he is now semi-retired. His latest book is A Lake District Christmas, an anthology of Cumbrian Christmas tales, poems and traditions. He is married to Lesley and lives in Whitehaven.

Sarah Doyle is the Pre-Raphaelite Society’s Poet-in-Residence, and co-author of Dreaming Spheres: Poems of the Solar System (PS Publishing, 2014). A pamphlet of poems collaged from fragments of Dorothy Wordsworth’s journals – Something so wild and new in this feeling – was published by V. Press earlier this year. She has been published in numerous magazines, webzines, and anthologies, and has been placed in many competitions, winning the Wolverhampton Literature Festival poetry competition and Holland Park Press’s Brexit in Poetry 2019, and being runner-up in the Keats-Shelley Poetry Prize 2019 and the Keats-Shelley Essay Prize 2020. She was highly commended in the Best Single Poem category of the Forward Prizes 2018, and is published in The Forward Book of Poetry 2019 and in Poems of the Decade: An Anthology of the Forward Books of Poetry 2011-2020. Sarah holds an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway College, University of London, and is currently researching a PhD in the poetics of meteorology at Birmingham City University.