William Blake – mystic, illuminator, printer, poet. A genius who saw to the edge of the universe and the microcosm of atomic structure.

Blake’s world view was very different to that of those around him, or those who have since lived. Without schooling, he was apprenticed to an engraver and learnt skills that would fuse an extraordinary talent for poetry, painting and printing to create intricate books of transcendent beauty. These would become an inspiration to generations of poets, students and lay readers.

His exceptional, deceptively simple poetry follows the mystical traditions of Plato, Jesus, Rumi and St Francis. Within it there is a profound view of the universe, the intricacies and foibles of the human species and it’s relationship to God.

In this panel discussion, we bring together the poets Ian Duhig and John Siddique, academic Jason Whittaker and artist Michael Phillips to divine the mystic elements of Blake’s Poetry. Chaired by Ralph Dartford.


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Ian Duhig

Former homelessness worker Ian Duhig has won the National Poetry Competition twice and his most recent book, The Blind Roadmaker, was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize, as well as being one of the Yorkshire Post’s Yorkshire Books of the Year. He is currently involved with organising poetry workshops with the David Oluwale Memorial Association.

Photo by Paul Madern

Michael Phillips

Michael Phillips taught at Oxford, University College London and Edinburgh University before joining the interdisciplinary Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies at the University of York where he is now an Honorary Fellow. An acknowledged authority on Blake, Michael was also guest curator of the major exhibitions of Blake at Tate Britain, the Petit Palais and most recently, his acclaimed exhibition and catalogue for the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, William Blake Apprentice & Master. He has also trained as a printmaker in order to explore and replicate Blake’s graphic techniques used in producing the illuminated books.

John Siddique

John Siddique is a spiritual teacher and writer who has dedicated his life to honouring the authentic human experience. He is the author of a number of books. The Times of India calls him ‘Rebellious by nature, pure at heart’. Spectator Magazine describes him as ‘A Stellar British Poet’. His work has appeared in The Guardian, Granta, Poetry Review, and on BBC Radio 4. New York Times correspondent and novelist Bina Shah says he is ’One of the best poets of our generation’.

Jason Whittaker

Professor Jason Whittaker is Head of the School of English and Journalism at the University of Lincoln. He has written and edited six books on Blake including Radical Blake (2002) and Blake 2.0 (2012), concentrating mainly on the reception of Blake by contemporary writers, artists and thinkers.

Ralph Dartford

Ralph Dartford studied poetry at Birkbeck College, London under the tutelage of Michael Donaghy. His work has appeared in the Guardian, Pulp Faction, Stirring (US), WordLife and London Territories amongst many other publications. His first volume of poetry, Cigarettes, Beer and Love received wide acclaim, and his second, Dirty Needle Rain will be published in 2019.