Wednesday 10 May 6:30 - 7:30

We’re thrilled to welcome John Wedgwood Clarke back to the Custom House for the launch of his new collection Boy Thing. John will read from his latest work, followed by a Q&A chaired by Fiona Benson.

Praise for Boy Thing

“Boy Thing is a thing of wonder. These are poems that negotiate anew the tender, hurt territory of a boy abruptly unfathered with every fresh reading; and that travel into the wonderment of becoming a father of boys. We are given a boy’s-eye-view of 1970s Cornwall with a music and detail so meticulous that we yearn with Clarke for its lost territories. But these are not just poems of archive or archaeology; they are revelatory, dynamic and raw. Clarke is crucially attuned to the secret messages received in boyhood – its preoccupations and awakenings, epiphanies and abuses, and its shames. This book is unmissable:  human and humane, grimy and sublime.” Fiona Benson

“Boy Thing is a beautiful book – sensual, atmospheric, full of nature and ritual. These poems while formally precise, possess a rawness that is startling and utterly compelling.” Ella Frears

You can also ‘save a seat’ to watch our live-stream from home here.

About the Author
John Wedgwood Clarke was born and raised in Cornwall. He trained as an actor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama before going on to study literature and complete a PhD in ‘Objectivist’ poetry at the University of York. He is an Associate Professor in Creative Writing at the University of Exeter.

His first collection Ghost Pot was described by Bernard O’Donoghue as a ‘masterpiece that rewards continual re-reading’. Clarke’s poetry often  grows out of collaboration with scientists and artists, and is displayed in art galleries, museums and in the landscape.

His credits as television presenter and researcher for BBC Four include: Through the Lens of Larkin (2017) and Cornwall’s Red River (2021), which is based on his research project about a post-industrial river in West Cornwall.

Fiona Benson was educated at Trinity College, Oxford and then St Andrews University, where she completed the MLitt and a PhD in early modern drama. Her pamphlet was ‘Faber New Poets 1’ in the Faber New Poets series, and her full-length collection Bright Travellers (Cape, 2014) received the Seamus Heaney Prize for first collection and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. Her second book, Vertigo & Ghost (Cape, 2019) won the Roehampton Poetry Prize and the Forward Poetry Prize. Her third collection Ephemeron (2022) was shortlisted for the T.S Eliot Prize. She lives in mid-Devon with her husband and their two daughters.

This event will be in-person at Exeter Custom House. We have increased capacity at Quay Words events, so you may be sitting next to someone who is not in your household. We are still taking precautions to ensure our audiences are protected from Covid 19. We will be keeping windows open to ensure good ventilation in the building so you may want to bring an extra layer. Please do not attend Quay Words events if you have symptoms of Covid-19 or are feeling unwell. This event is going to be filmed for live broadcast on Crowdcast. You may appear on screen. Please only book if you are happy with this.
You can find out more about the accessibility of the Custom House here. If you have any access needs you’d like to discuss with us before the event you can contact us on We can offer free carer tickets if you need help to support you to attend.