Stanzas in Solidarity: A rare chance to hear the sensual supremacy of Shakespeare’s epic-length 1593 poem ‘Venus and Adonis’ performed by a massed ensemble of almost 200 British theatre artists.

Earlier this year, the Stanzas in Solidarity project was formed as an artistic response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Its initial offering was an online collaborative performance of Shakespeare’s ‘Venus and Adonis’. A collective endeavour by no less than 198 volunteers from the theatre world, the work is offered as a gesture of solidarity to their colleagues in the performing arts.

Originally published in 1593, ‘Venus and Adonis’ was perhaps the major source of Shakespeare’s fame in his lifetime. Today, it is less well-known than his classic plays and sonnets, so Stanzas in Solidarity provides an excellent opportunity to hear this sensual tour-de-force performed in full for over 80 scintillating minutes by a new generation of British voices.

Watch the full poem via YouTube:

After you’ve experienced the poem, check out Ben Deery’s short introduction video, which explains a little more about the project and why ‘Venus and Adonis’ seemed like such an appropriate choice.

Destination Shakespeare is the debut volume of poetry from globe-trotting Stratford-upon-Avon Bard scholar Paul Edmondson

Shakespeare Magazine Editor Pat Reid writes:

If you’re in need of a last-minute Christmas gift for the Shakespeare fan in your life – even if it’s yourself – then I think I may have the answer:

Destination Shakespeare, a slim volume of poems by Paul Edmondson.

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Poems on the subject of Shakespeare – as opposed to poems by Shakespeare – can be problematic. From slavish imitations to politically-motivated ‘responses’, they rarely do the man justice.

I think the difference with Edmondson’s collection is that he’s a Shakespearean to the bone – a well-known scholar, author and representative of Stratford-upon-Avon’s Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

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He’s unashamedly on a quest to connect with Shakespeare’s spirit  (he also has a big thing for Keats). For the reader, it’s refreshing to delve into poems that engage with William – without being dragged over a whole series of the author’s Oedipal obstacles in the process.

As with most poetry, I found the best approach to Destination Shakespeare was to read it out loud. It’s an enjoyable and easy read, but with enough rhythmic twists and linguistic tricks to keep you on your toes.

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Subtitled ‘Shakespeare On The Road’, ten of the poems take the form of a travelogue, covering Edmondson’s journeys to various Shakespeare festivals in the USA and Canada: New Orleans, Utah, Harlem, Nashville and Stratford, Ontario.

Inescapably, there are echoes of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, and this seems a fitting tribute to a legendary American wordsmith.

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‘Six Songs For Shakespeare’ roam from Pontefract Castle to Elsinore and Venice (see if you can guess which Shakespeare plays they reference).

Grouped under ‘Journeying With Shakespeare’, other poems are dedicated to Edmondson’s fellow Shakespeare scholars Michael Dobson and the venerable Sir Stanley Wells.

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As an Anglican priest, Edmondson also interweaves his Christian faith into his travels with Shakespeare. But he’s certainly never preachy, and the sensual delight he evidently takes in people, nature and Shakespearean revelry borders on the pagan. As they say, it’s a broad church.

The book also features a generous foreword from poet Wendy Cope.

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Destination Shakespeare
is available now from Misfit Press priced just £6. You can order your copy here.