Poet in the City volunteer Jack Wright reflects on a rollercoaster of a year under the banner of "Fail Better".

Standing in Wilton’s Music Hall in February alongside the other Poet in the City volunteers and staff, waiting for the beginning of the first ‘Fail Better’ event of the year, focussing on Samuel Beckett, feels a lifetime away.

A focus on failure may have been a kind of grim portent given the extent to which the remainder of 2020 has been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. The lives of millions were changed significantly and Poet in the City’s events schedule for the year was disrupted.

In keeping with Beckett’s notion on failure, however, Poet in the City sought to “fail better”. A series of discussions and readings were shared on YouTube with poets Anthony Anaxagorou, Reece Lyons, Dean Atta, Zahra, Selina Nwulu and Joshua Idehen. They explored the concept of failure, both within their own work and in the wider society, with the now familiar backdrop of kitchens and living rooms.

Explore the "Fail Better" digital series

An event focusing on the timeless poet Emily Dickinson, previously scheduled for April, was held at King’s Place in October, bringing a room of (socially-distanced) people together for the first time in 203 days.

The final event of 2020 featured excellent observations on nature writing, including links to wellbeing and discussions around racial diversity and ableism, all through the lens of William Wordsworth’s work. In a year where we may feel reminded of failure more often than we would like, a continued focus on our natural world offers us some much needed optimism.

Looking ahead to the new year, Poet in the City has a number of events scheduled focusing on theme of Grassroots Vision. The first in February 2021 will focus on Forugh Farrokhzad, a poet known for her writings in 1960s Iran. A pioneer who sought to break conventions in a male-dominated literary space, Farrokhzad’s work has had a prolonged effect on a number of writers and artists alike.

In March, we will be looking back several thousand years to Virgil’s literary epic, The Aeneid. Parallels between the hero Aeneas’s search for a safe haven and the modern day plight of refugees help to offer us an important perspective. The timelessness of Virgil’s tale and that of refugees throughout history encourages us to consider important lessons.

A move towards 2021 may feel, for many, less important than putting 2020 behind us. For all of its difficulties, 2020 has offered us important perspectives on the need for solidarity and adjustment. Not an outright failure by any means, perhaps we can take some solace in the notion that we have all sought to “fail better” this year.