In 2009, fewer than thirty per cent of all poetry reviews were written by women, a figure that dropped even lower at prestigious outlets like the TLS and the LRB.
It’s hard to deny that in 2021 the poetry ecosystem has changed dramatically: many new presses and magazines have been founded, prize lists have become more receptive to aesthetic innovation, an array of ‘firsts’ have appeared among the country’s most visible platforms. Alongside these successes, however, the structures of power which occasioned those inequalities have remained in place, and many women and gender non-conforming poets have seen their work go overlooked or wilfully misunderstood.
Join poets (and cross-genre artists) Vahni Capildeo, Nat Raha and A.K. Blakemore as they read from their recent publications, and discuss their experiences of an industry that needs to evolve past some very traditional hierarchies.
Chaired by Ledbury Poetry Critics co-organiser Alycia Pirmohamed. Hosted by poet and chair of Spread the Word Rishi Dastidar.
This event will be BSL interpreted by Amy Hayward and Rachel Jones and also auto-captioned.
Speakers and sponsors
Trinidadian-British poet Vahni Capildeo was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad. They earned a PhD at Oxford University, where they were a Rhodes Scholar studying translation theory and Old Norse. They completed a research fellowship at Girton College, Cambridge University.
In precise, layered poems and prose poems, Capildeo engages themes of geographic, intimate, and linguistic distances and proximities. Their poetry collections include No Traveller Returns (2003), Undraining Sea (2009), Dark and Unaccustomed Words (2012), Utter (2013), Measures of Expatriation (2016), which won the 2016 Forward Prize, and Venus as a Bear (2018).
Photo by Adrian Pope.
Nat Raha is a poet, and queer / trans* activist-scholar, based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Her research addresses sexuality and gender, critical theory and Marxism, contemporary poetry and poetics, through creative and critical methods. She is a postdoctoral researcher on the ‘Life Support’ project at University of St Andrews, and was a postdoctoral researcher on the ‘Cruising the Seventies: Unearthing pre-HIV/AIDS queer sexual cultures’ project at the Edinburgh College of Art. In 2018, she completed her PhD thesis ‘Queer Capital: Marxism in queer theory and post-1950 poetics’ at the University of Sussex. Her current research also investigates radical transfeminism, race in UK poetry and poetics, and queer and trans print cultures. She is the author of three collections and numerous pamphlets of poetry – her third book, ‘of sirens, body & faultlines’, was published by Boiler House Press in November 2018. She has performed her work internationally and her writing has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies. Nat is co-editor of the Radical Transfeminism zine.
A. K. Blakemore
A. K. Blakemore is the author of two full-length collections of poetry: Humbert Summer (Eyewear, 2015) and Fondue (Offord Road Books, 2018), which was awarded the 2019 Ledbury Forte Prize for Best Second Collection. She has also translated the work of Sichuanese poet Yu Yoyo (My Tenantless Body, Poetry Translation Centre, 2019). Her poetry and prose writing has been widely published and anthologised, appearing in the The London Review of Books, Poetry, Poetry Review and The White Review, among others. Her debut novel, The Manningtree Witches, an account of the English witch trials of 1643, was published by Granta in March of this year.
Alycia Pirmohamed is a Canadian-born poet based in the UK. Currently, she is a postdoctoral Creative Writing Fellow at the University of Liverpool, where she is working with the Ledbury Poetry Critics programme. Previously, she received an MFA from the University of Oregon and a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, where she studied poetry written by second-generation immigrants. In 2020, Alycia was the winner of the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award.
Alycia is the author of the chapbooks Hinge (ignitionpress), both a 2020 Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Recommendation and shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Award, and Faces that Fled the Wind, selected by Camille Rankine for the 2018 BOAAT Press Chapbook Prize. In 2021, her chapbook Second Memory, a creative non-fiction piece co-authored with Pratyusha, will be co-published with Baseline Press (Canada) and Guillemot Press (UK). Alycia was the winner of the 2020 Pamet River Prize and her debut poetry collection, Another Way to Split Water is forthcoming with YesYes Books in Fall 2022.
Rishi Dastidar’s poetry has been published by Financial Times, New Scientist and the BBC amongst many others. His debut collection Ticker-tape is published by Nine Arches Press, and a poem from it was included in The Forward Book of Poetry 2018. A member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen, and a consulting editor at The Rialto magazine, he also chairs the London writer development organization Spread The Word, and is editor of the final part of the Nine Arches Press writers’ trilogy, The Craft: A Guide to Making Poetry Happen in the 21st Century. He is Chair of Spread the Word's Board of Trustees.
Ledbury Poetry Critics was founded by Sandeep Parmar and Sarah Howe with support from Ledbury Poetry Festival. Ledbury Poetry Festival is the biggest, brightest, most superlatively international celebration of poetry and spoken word in the UK. Surrounded by woods, orchards and hills, poets from all over the world gather in this independent market town to perform, write, read and listen to poetry. Contemporary literary titans stand alongside upcoming talents to illuminate a thrillingly electric mix of events, from readings, performance poetry, masterclasses, walks, talks and films through to breakfasts, music, exhibitions and bike rides.
The Ledbury Poetry Critics programme has now been awarded funding by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to expand.