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‘In these pages you will find yourself moved, celebrated and troubled in equal measure,’ poet and memoirist Seán Hewitt writes in the introduction to his new anthology. 300,000 Kisses: Tales of Queer Love from the Ancient World is a celebration of desire in all its forms, in a selection of texts from ancient Greek and Roman authors including Sappho, Catullus and Ovid and even some graffiti from a wall in Pompeii. ‘There are moments of tantalizing closeness between the reader and these passages, and moments of shocking distance,’ Hewitt writes.
He joins the Forward Prize-winning poet, Fiona Benson, whose dazzlingly original work includes an unforgettable retelling of the Greek myth of the Minotaur in her recent collection, Ephemeron. Her 2019 collection, Vertigo & Ghost, includes a sequence of poems of vulnerability, ferocity and fury in which Zeus is portrayed as a sexual predator, and confronted. ‘No one writes the way Fiona Benson does. No one is as raging, as fearless. These are the poems we will be reading to our children in fifty years,’ novelist Daisy Johnson writes.
This conversation about the many facets of love, power and desire, ancient and modern, will be chaired by arts journalist Paula Shields.
Presented in association with Poetry Ireland.
Illustrations © Luke Edward Hall
Fiona Benson’s first collection, Bright Travellers, won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize and the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry Prize for first full collection. Vertigo & Ghost was awarded the Forward Prize and the Roehampton Prize for Poetry, and shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Award. Her pamphlet Ariadne, illustrated by Judith Eyal, won the Michael Marks Greek Bicentennial Poetry Prize. Fiona Benson lives in Devon with her husband and their two daughters.
Seán Hewitt is a poet, memoirist, novelist and literary critic, living in Dublin. He won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature in 2022. His debut collection of poetry, Tongues of Fire, won The Laurel Prize in 2021, and was shortlisted for The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, the John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Prize, and a Dalkey Literary Award. His book J.M. Synge: Nature, Politics, Modernism was published with Oxford University Press (2021) followed by his memoir, All Down Darkness Wide, published in 2022.
300,000 Kisses: Tales of Queer Love from the Ancient World, illustrated by Luke Edward Hall, was published in 2023. A second collection of poetry, Rapture's Road, has just been published and his début novel, Open, Heaven, is forthcoming next year.
Seán Hewitt is Assistant Professor in Literary Practice at Trinity College Dublin, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Paula Shields is an arts journalist and broadcaster. She has worked in London and Dublin in print, television, and now radio, on the arts show, Arena, on RTE Radio 1.
Other professional highlights include contributing an essay to the Sunday Miscellany Anthology 2018 -2023, making the IFTA award-winning television documentary, Fairytale of New York in 2017, and judging the 2017 and 2018 Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards.