Seni Seneviratne is a writer, poet, performer, singer and creative artist born and raised in Leeds, Yorkshire and of English and Sri Lankan heritage. Her work as a poet and live artist has been praised particularly for the unique talent of engaging an audience through poetry and song.
Her poetry is published internationally. She has given readings, performances and workshops in UK, US, Canada, South Africa, Egypt and Kuwait.
She works as a freelance writer, mentor, trainer and creative consultant. She has collaborated with film-makers, visual artists, musicians and digital artists and is one of ten commissioned writers on the Colonial Countryside Project with the University of Leicester and Peepal Tree Press.
She is a fellow of the Complete Works programme for diversity and quality in British Poetry and is currently co-editing a Bloodaxe anthology of post-independence Tamil, Sinhala and English poetry. Her fourth collection, The Go-Away Bird will be published by Peepal Tree Press in Autumn 2023.
Unknown Soldier Tour 2023
Experience a moving one-woman performance and multi-media installation which brings to life the hidden family narrative of poet-artist Seni Seneviratne.
Based on her last collection, Unknown Soldier, this is a story of migration from Ceylon to England beginning in 1925 when Seni’s grandfather first travelled to England after the early death of his first wife. It documents Seni’s father, Christopher’s arrival as an eleven year old in 1928 and his school years in Leeds where he meets Winnie who becomes Seni’s mother.
At the heart of the story is a photo-album, the only surviving record of a friendship between two signalmen: one Seni’s father, a young man from colonial Ceylon, the other an unknown photographer; two men finding a connection through mutual support, respect and a love of photography. Actors voice the imagined words of the two soldiers describing their experiences as Royal Signalmen in the North African Desert War. Photos from family albums explore Christopher’s return to Leeds after the war, his marriage to a Yorkshire woman and Seni’s memories of growing up in a mixed-heritage family in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
The Unknown Soldier Tour 2023 was created with direction consultancy by Amanda Huxtable, filming and editing by Gavin Repton, image and sound design by James Waring, curation support by Melanie Abrahams, film and voice recordings by Rav Sanghera and Simon Marshall and production by Renaissance One. Funded by Arts Council England.
‘Unknown Soldier’ was published by Peepal Tree Press in September 2019, and is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and a National Poetry Day Choice and was Highly Commended in the Forward Prizes 2020
The Weight of the World
Oh, how they blew like vast sails in the breeze,
my mother’s wet sheets, pegged hard to the rope
of her washing line. There was always hope
of dry weather and no need for a please
or thanks between us as we hauled them down.
Whether to make the fold from right to left
or left to right, to tame the restless heft?
My job to know. I won’t call it a dance
but there were steps to learn and cues to read,
the give and take of fabric passed like batons
in a relay race. She was my due north.
Her right hand set west, mine tracing the east,
we closed the distance, calmed the wayward weight
bringing order to the billowing world.
© Seni Seneviratne
Commended in the St. Cross College, Four Corners Poetry Competition.
Published in Unknown Soldier 2019
Check here for further launch dates