Daljit Nagra to curate new series of commissions for Radio 4

Poet in residence at Radio 4, Daljit Nagra will curate a series of new commissions in response to Europe’s second oldest poem, Homer’s The Odyssey.

The Odyssey Project: My Name is Nobody will feature ten writers from various diasporas to create new radio poems. Showcased over a fortnight, the project will introduce the poets and the context of their pieces in relation to Homer. Whilst the title reflects Odysseus’ response to the Cyclops when he asks for his name – “My name is Nobody” is his answer – these contemporary responses are not versions of The Odyssey, but new poems written in its lamplight.

The parallels between the ancient tales and themes of the 3,000 year old epic and today’s events and concerns around the world are striking. The urge of ordinary people – Nobodies – to find home and security, the concern for family, the importance of hospitality and the necessity of disguise, guile – and luck – these are as potent today as modern stories of refugees and migrants as when, on the western seaboard of Turkey, Homer composed his poem. Among people who have arrived recently, and the offspring of those who came earlier, are poets. In The Odyssey Project: My Name Is Nobody they bring their own experience to bear on the great epic of European literature.

As well as introducing these contemporary responses to The Odyssey, Daljit Nagra is writing one himself. He and six other poets, including poets Mir Mahfuz Ali, Mona Arshi, and Zaffar Kunial are writing their work in English. Three poets will be writing in their own languages, are collaborating with English language poets: including Reza Mohammadi (Dari) and Nick Laird.

The ten part series will use the resources of radio fully – performance by the poets, and others; work in their original languages and English translation; actuality; sound – and silence. There will be music specially recorded by performers from The Jungle camp, and the Afghan musician Milad Yousofi.

James Runcie says: “These new commissions reflect the energy, diversity and geographical range of the arts across the United Kingdom and, indeed, the globe. The aim is to complement our existing coverage, so that as well as giving Radio 4 listeners a front row seat, we take them backstage, to places they might not normally go, and present the artist’s unique take on the world as it is, as soon as we can, right here, right now.”

The new commissions also include a new four-part series with Daljit Nagra showcasing the freshest writing and performance from the frontlines of the UK’s dynamic poetry and spoken word scene. Recorded at festivals and events around the UK, Blast will be broadcast in late 2017.

The Odyssey Project: My Name Is Nobody will air over two weeks from 17-28 April at 9.45am