BFDay23: Novel vs Verse feat. Jen Calleja, Lisa Robertson and Dawn Watson

BFDay23: Novel vs Verse feat. Jen Calleja, Lisa Robertson and Dawn Watson

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Sat 23 Sept, 2.30-3.30 pm, St Peter's Church, De Beauvoir Sq.
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Jen Calleja, Lisa Robertson and Dawn Watson in conversation, chaired by Nisha Ramayya

As the boundaries between genres and modes tumble, we celebrate chorally with three accomplished writers who move between poetry and fiction: in this case, on the same page. In Vehicle, Jen Calleja takes us on a polyphonic ride through an archive of fragments constellated around a remarkable musician and translator, while Lisa Robertson’s The Baudelaire Fractal is doubly a poets’ novel as it relates the life of a 1980s she-dandy in Paris who is also Baudelaire, and Dawn Watson’s We Play Here plays with the poem-story, weaving the voices for four young female friends in Protestant north Belfast in 1988. This will be a lyrical deep dive.


Jen Calleja is the author of Vehicle: a verse novel (Prototype, 2023) and the long poem Dust Sucker (Makina Books, 2023). She is the translator of nearly twenty works of German-language literature and was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2019 for her translation of Marion Poschmann's The Pine Islands. She is currently finishing two works of creative non-fiction - Goblinhood: goblin as a mode (Rough Trade Books, 2024) and Fair: a literary translator memoir. Jen is based in Hastings, UK.

Canadian writer Lisa Robertson started publishing in the early 90s in Vancouver and since then has written 9 books of poetry, including 2022’s Boat, from Coach House Books, and 3 books of essays: Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture, Nilling and Anemones: A Simone Weil Project. The Baudelaire Fractal is her first novel, and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction in Canada. She has worked as a visiting writer and teacher at University of Cambridge, Princeton, UC Berkeley, the Royal College of Art, Naropa, and Piet Zwart Institute. She lives in France.

Dawn Watson is a lecturer in creative writing at Queen’s University, Belfast. Her debut poetry book We Play Here is published with Granta Books (2023). She is the author of pamphlet The Stack of Owls is Getting Higher (The Emma Press, 2019). She completed a PhD in poetry at the Seamus Heaney Centre in 2022, examining the overlap of lyric and narrative in Elizabeth Bishop's short prose.

Nisha Ramayya grew up in Glasgow and now lives in London. Her poetry collection States of the Body Produced by Love (2019) is published by Ignota Books. Her second collection will be published by Granta in 2024. Tentatively called Now Let’s Take a Listening Walk, it hazards a musical journey through history, myth, and sci fi. Nisha teaches Creative Writing at Queen Mary University of London. 

Jen Calleja headshot © Robin Christian