The Complete Works Diversity in UK Poetry Conference

The Complete Works Diversity in UK Poetry Conference – 9th November 2017


Conference Director

Dr Nathalie Teitler finds new ways to connect the fields of arts, academia and activism. She is the Director of the Complete Works Poetry which she has run as an independent organisation for the last 7 years. Prior to this she founded and ran the first mentoring and development programme for writers living in exile in the UK. She has published as an academic, critic and activist and also mentors writers. Dr Teitler also founded a dance-poetry company, Dancing Words that produces live events and films. She is an (honorary) research fellow at Roehampton University.

Keynote Speakers

Professor Bernardine Evaristo MBE 
(founder of The Complete Works Poetry) is the author of eight books of fiction and verse fiction exploring aspects of the African diaspora – past, present, real, imagined. Her latest book is Mr Loverman, about a septuagenarian Antiguan-Londoner who is closet homosexual (Penguin 2013). Her other books include Lara, Blonde Roots, Soul Tourists and The Emperor’s Babe. Her numerous other published and produced writings span the genres of short stories, essays, literary criticism, poetry, theatre, as well as BBC radio drama, writing and presenting

Two of her novels have been adapted into BBC Radio 4 dramas. She has edited several publications including NW15 for the British Council/Granta in 2006 and the centenary winter issue of Poetry Review in 2012. She has held several international fellowships and undertaken over 150 international visits as a writer. She was the Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth College, USA, in 2015, and she is Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London.

She has chaired and judged many literary prizes including the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Caine Prize for African Writing, the Goldsmiths Prize for innovative fiction, the T.S.Eliot Award for Poetry, the Orange Award for New Writers and the National Poetry Competition. She founded the Brunel International African Poetry Prize in 2012, which has brought African poetry to the fore. All the winning and shortlisted poets have now had chapbooks published with Kwame Dawes’ New African Poets Box Set series in the USA. She also initiated the Free Verse report in 2005 and founded The Complete Works poets’ mentoring scheme for poets of colour in 2006. Since its inception, many of the 30 mentored poets are achieving publication and critical success including Mona Arshi, Malika Booker, Kayo Chingonyi, Sarah Howe, Nick Makoha, Warsan Shire and Karen McCarthy Woolf. Earlier initiatives include co-founding Spread the Word writer development agency in 1995 and co-founding Theatre of Black Women in the 1980s.

She has won many awards for her writing including, for Mr Loverman, the Publishing Triangle Ferrro-Grumley Award in the USA and Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize in the UK. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2004, joined its Council in 2016 and became a Vice Chair in 2017. She was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2006, and a Fellow of the English Association in 2017. She was appointed an MBE in the Queens’ Birthday Honours List in 2009.

Professor Fiona Sampson MBE has been published in more than thirty languages.  She has twelve books in translation, and has received the Zlaten Prsten (Macedonia) and the Charles Angoff Award (US), and been shortlisted for the Evelyn Encelot Prize for European Women Poets. From 2005-2012 she was the Editor of Poetry Review; she is now Professor of Poetry at the University of Roehampton, where she is the director of the Roehampton Poetry Centre and editor of Poem. A Fellow and Council Member of the Royal Society of Literature, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Fellow of the English Association and Trustee of the Wordsworth Trust, her publications include twenty-four volumes of poetry, criticism and philosophy of language.  She has received the Newdigate Prize, a Cholmondeley award, a Hawthornden fellowship, Kathleen Blundell and Oppenheimer-John Downes Awards from the Society of Authors, Writer’s Awards from the Arts Councils of England and Wales and various Poetry Book Society commendations, and has been shortlisted twice for both the T.S. Eliot Prize and Forward prizes. Recent books include a new edition of Percy Bysshe Shelley for Faber (PBS Book-club Choice) and Coleshill  (Chatto, PBS Recommendation). The US edition of her selected poems appeared from Sheep Meadow Press in 2013.

Karen McCarthy Woolf was born in London to English and Jamaican parents. Karen McCarthy Woolf’s An Aviary of Small Birds was a Guardian/Observer Book of the Year, shortlisted for the Forward and Fenton-Aldeburgh first collection prizes and described in The Poetry Review as ‘extraordinarily moving and technically flawless’. She contributes to numerous organs including Modern Poetry in Translation, Prairie Schooner (who also awarded her a Glenna Luschei Prize), The Poetry Review and Poetry London, where she is a trustee.

In 2015 Karen was writer-in-residence at the National Maritime Museum, responding to an exhibit on migration. She has represented British writing at events worldwide, including Mexico City (Transmedia Shakespeare/British Council), the United States (Black British Writers’ Tour, Speaking Volumes), Sweden (as part of Littfest/Versopolis) and the Caribbean (BOCAS Literary Festival).

Karen is an advocate for diversity on a creative and editorial basis. A selector for Faber and Faber’s New Poets Scheme, she teaches at Royal Holloway, The Poetry School and the Arvon Foundation and is the editor of two anthologies showcasing new writing for The Complete Works.

Seasonal Disturbances (Carcanet, 2017) is a PBS Recommendation and was described as a work with ‘a sharp eye for contemporary hypocrisy’ where ‘political anger and ecological anxiety converge forcefully’ (Sunday Times). Recent commissions include a new dramatised poem based on Homer’s Odyssey for BBC Book of the Week and a sound/poetry collaboration for BBC Radio 3.

Karen holds an AHRC Doctoral Scholarship from the University of London: her research interests include the emotional impacts of water and manifestations of the sacred in hybrid environments.


Morning Sessions (alphabetical)

Khairani Barokka is an Indonesian writer, poet and artist based in London. She is the writer/performer/producer of, among others, a deaf-accessible, solo poetry/art show, Eve and Mary Are Having Coffee. Published internationally in anthologies and journals, Okka has presented work extensively, in nine countries, been awarded six residencies and various grants, and given two TEDx talks (Jakarta and Youth@Chennai). She is author and illustrator of poetry-art book Indigenous Species (Tilted Axis Press, 2016), co-editor with Ng Yi-Sheng of HEAT: A Southeast Asian Urban Anthology (Buku Fixi Publishing, 2016), and co-editor, with Sandra Alland and Daniel Sluman, of Nine Arches Press’ UK anthology of D/deaf and disabled poets (forthcoming May 2017). Her first full-length poetry collection, Rope, will be published by Nine Arches Press in October 2017.

Leo Boix (presenter of cross arts film)
 was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1975, and since 1997 has lived in London and Deal, Kent. He read Latin American Studies at Birkbeck College, University of London, where he also gained an MA in Latin American Literature and Culture. He studied at The Poetry School in London with Tamar Yoseloff, Roddy Lumsden and Clare Pollard. As a journalist, Boix has regularly published in The Guardian, The Morning Star, The Miami Herald, as well as being the correspondent for major Latin American journals and newspapers including Revista Proceso (Mexico), Diario Perfil (Argentina), and El Telégrafo (Ecuador).

Boix is a founding member of SLAP (Spanish and Latin American Poets and Writers in the UK), and as part of this group he has read publicly on many occasions, including at the Poetry Cafe, Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), Unison, Rich Mix and the Deal Poetry Festival (Poesía en la Playa), with readings in Spanish and English.

In 2015 Boix published his first Spanish collection Un lugar propio (Letras del Sur, Bs. As.), followed in 2016 by Mar de noche (Letras del Sur, Bs As). He also judged and wrote the prologue for the anthology collection Apología 3 (Poesía porque sí, 2016), showcasing the best young Argentinean poets. In 2016 Boix won first prize in the Anglo-Chilean Society Poetry Competition.
In English his poetry has featured in the pamphlet All that is Unsaid, 2015, edited by Tamar Yoseloff, as well as in the literary journals Modern Poetry in Translation (MPT), Minor literature [s], Azahar Literario, The Morning Star poetry column, IS&T and The Rialto. Boix is currently working on a collection of poems based on Hieronymus Bosch, and also on a creative translation of the writings of the Peruvian poet Jorge Eduardo Eielson.

Victoria-Anne Bulley (presenter of cross arts film) is a British-born Ghanaian poet and filmmaker. A former Barbican Young Poet, her work has been commissioned by the Royal Academy of Arts, in addition to being featured on BBC Radio 4. She was shortlisted for the Brunel University African Poetry Prize 2016, and is one of ten poets on the acclaimed UK mentorship programme, The Complete Works. Her debut pamphlet, Girl B, edited by Kwame Dawes, is part of the 2017 New-Generation African Poets series. She is the director of MOTHER TONGUES, an intergenerational poetry, film and translation project supported by Arts Council England and Autograph ABP.

Bea Colley (presentation) is the Participation Producer for Literature & Spoken Word at Southbank Centre. She is interested in poetry, stories, feminism, supporting refugee communities and also writes poetry.

Dr Sarah Howe (panellist) is a British poet, academic and editor. Her first book, Loop of Jade (Chatto & Windus, 2015), won the T.S. Eliot Prize and The Sunday Times/PFD Young Writer of the Year Award, and was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Poetry Prize and the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Born in Hong Kong in 1983 to an English father and Chinese mother, she moved to England as a child. Her pamphlet, A Certain Chinese Encyclopedia (Tall-lighthouse, 2009), won an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors.

Her poems have appeared in journals including Poetry Review, Poetry London, The Guardian, The Financial Times, Ploughshares and Poetry, as well as anthologies such as Ten: The New Wave and four editions of The Best British Poetry. She has performed her work at festivals internationally and on BBC Radio 3 & 4. She is the founding editor of Prac Crit, an online journal of poetry and criticism.

Previous fellowships include a Research Fellowship at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, a Hawthornden Fellowship, the Harper-Wood Studentship for English Poetry and a Fellowship at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute. She is currently a Leverhulme Fellow in English at University College London.

Miss Jacqui (poet reading in presentation) is a spoken word artist, mix engineer, facilitator, and artist manager. As well as being an ambassador for multiple organisations that she holds close to her heart. Her love for spoken word/poetry came to light in 2011, when she joined “Poets Platform” led by Kat Francois. Since then she has performed at various locations like the Paralympic Team Welcoming Ceremony as well as the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. Miss Jacqui has worked with Halfmoon Young Peoples Theatre, Theatre Royal Stratford East, National Youth Theatre and Channel 4 News, just to name a few. She is also the youngest board member of Graeae. Miss Jacqui believes that creativity is a universal language and in her spare time, she is devoted to the exploration of theatre, music, poetry, song writing, and of course performing.”

Raisa Kabir (poet reading in presentation) on Nine Arches anthology, ‘Stairs and Whispers’

Nick Makoha (panellist) has been shortlisted for the 2017 Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection for his debut Kingdom of Gravity. He is a Cave Canem Graduate Fellow and Complete Works alumni. He won the 2015 Brunel International African Poetry prize and is the 2016 winner of the Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize for his pamphlet Resurrection Man. His poems appeared in The New York Times, Poetry Review, Rialto, Poetry London, Triquarterly Review, Boston Review, Callaloo, and Wasafiri. He is a Creative Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Goldsmiths working to create an in depth online digital archive of the Metic experiences of Black British Writers.

Karen McCarthy Woolf (chair) –see Keynote

Momtaza Mehri (chair) is a poet, essayist and researcher. Her work has been featured in DAZED, Buzzfeed, Sukoon, Berkeley Poetry Review, VINYL and Bone Bouquet. She is a Complete Works Fellow and winner of the 2017 Out-Spoken Page Poetry Prize. Her chapbook, sugah lump prayer was published in 2017 as part of the New Generation African Poets series. She also co-edits Diaspora Drama, a digital platform showcasing international immigrant artists.

Dr Deidre Osborne (panellist) is a Reader in English Literature and Drama at Goldsmiths University of London. She co-convenes the MA Black British Writing and teaches undergraduate modules on Shakespeare, Cultural Theory, Feminism, Modernism and Postmodernism. Her research interests span late-Victorian literature and maternity, to Landmark Poetics, mixedness, adoption aesthetics and Black writing. Publications include: editor of the first Cambridge Companion to British Black and Asian Literature ( 1945-2010) (2016), guest-editor Special Issue, ‘Contemporary Black British Women’s Writing’ for Women: a Cultural Review (2009), a commentary and critical edition of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun (Methuen 2011), edited volumes of critical introductions and plays by Kwame Kwei-Armah, Malika Booker, SuAndi, Lennie James, Courttia Newland, Lemn Sissay ( Hidden Gems Vols. I and II, Oberon Books, 2008; 2012). She is contributing co-editor of Modern and Contemporary Black British Drama (Palgrave 2014) and Associate Editor of the scholarly journal Women’s Writing (Taylor and Francis).

Dr Sandeep Parmar (panellist) is Senior Lecturer in English and co-director of the University of Liverpool’s Centre for New and International Writing. Her critical work includes Reading Mina Loy’s Autobiographies, and two scholarly editions from Carcanet: the Collected Poems of Hope Mirrlees and the Selected Poems of Nancy Cunard. Her poetry collections are The Marble Orchard and Eidolon which won the 2017 Ledbury Forte Prize for Best Second Collection. She reviews for the Guardian, FT, TLS and her essay on UK poetry and race ‘Not a British Subject’ was published in the Los Angeles Review of Books. She is a BBC New Generation Thinker and judge for the 2017 Forward Prize for Poetry.

Clare Pollard (presentation) was born in Bolton in 1978 and currently lives in South London with her husband and two children. Her first collection of poetry, The Heavy-Petting Zoo (1998) was written whilst she was still at school, and received an Eric Gregory Award. It was followed by Bedtime (2002) and Look, Clare! Look! (2005), which was made a set text on the WJEC A-level syllabus. Her fourth collection Changeling (2011) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, and her latest is Incarnation (Bloodaxe, 2017).  In 2003 she won a Society of Authors travel award and an Arts Council writer’s award. The Independent named her one of their Top Writers Under 30.

Clare’s first play The Weather (Faber, 2004) premiered at the Royal Court Theatre, and has since been performed at the Munchner Kammerspiele in Munich.  In 2012 she co-wrote the radio play Surface to Air with WN Herbert for BBC Radio 4.  She has toured widely with the British Council, including a residency in Beijing, and been involved in numerous translation projects, including co-translating the pamphlet Poems by Caasha Lul Mohamud Yusuf (Poetry Translation Centre 2012). A full collection of Caasha’s work, The Sea-Migrations, is forthcoming from Bloodaxe and has just received a 2017 PEN Translates award. Clare has also translated Ovid’s Heroines (Bloodaxe, 2013), which she toured as a one-woman show with Jaybird Live Literature.

Clare supports herself by working as an editor, journalist and teacher. She was Assistant Director of the Clerkenwell Literary Festival from 2002-5. She co-edited an anthology for Bloodaxe with James Byrne, entitled Voice Recognition: 21 Poets for the 21stsCentury, has been Managing Editor of The Idler, edited two issues of Magma poetry magazine and co-edited an issue of The Butcher’s Dog. She has recently been a judge for the PBS Next Generation list, Popescu European Poetry Translation Prize, Manchester International Poetry Prize and Northern Writer’s Awards. Her articles and reviews have been published in The Guardian, The Independent, The TES, Critical Quarterly, Poetry London, Poetry Review and The Dark Horse.  As well as appearances on The Verb, Woman’s Hour, Poetry Please and Newsnight Review, she has written and presented two documentaries for television and one for radio, ‘My Male Muse’ (2007), which was a Radio 4 Pick of the Year.  Clare is a Royal Literary Fellow at Essex University, mentors for New Writing North, and is a core tutor on the new Poetry School/University of Newcastle Poetry MA. She is the new Editor of Modern Poetry in Translation (replacing poet Sasha Dugdale).

Roger Robinson (panellist) has performed worldwide and is an experienced workshop leader and lecturer on poetry. He was chosen by Decibel as one of 50 writers who have influenced the Black-British writing canon. He received commissions from The National Trust, London Open House, The National Portrait Gallery, The V&A, INIVA and Theatre Royal Stratford East where he also was an associate artist.

He was shortlisted for The OCM Bocas Poetry Prize and highly commended by the Forward Poetry Prize 2013. He has toured extensively with the British Council and is a co-founder of both Spoke Lab and the international writing collective Malika’s Kitchen and is an alumni of The Complete Works. His New and Selected Poems is soon to be published on Peepal Tree Press. He released two albums with Disrupt on every reggae lovers favourite label Jahtari in 2015 and is a founding member of King Midas Sound on Ninja Tune.


Afternoon Sessions

Melanie Abrams (presentation) Curator-producer Melanie has been furthering the art of literature and spoken word for 20 years. She’s founder of independent organisations Renaissance One and Tilt, which make regular use of live events, tours and commissions to highlight the diverse canons of British and International literature. She’s a former director of Spread The Word and Africa Centre Programmer.

Melanie has set up mentoring initiatives, creative salons and producer programmes offering nurture, job/work creation and insights. Writers she has collaborated with include Bernardine Evaristo, Amiri Baraka, Daljit Nagra, Ali Smith, Paul Beatty, Caryl Phillips, Malika Booker, Anthony Joseph, Patience Agbabi and Gary Younge.

Dzifa Benson (presentation) has been a performance artist, journalist (arts and culture), educator and poet for over 20 years. She has been widely anthologised (Emma Press, Sidekick books) and published in numerous journals including Wasafiri, Poetry Review and Magma. She has also toured with the British Council and is about to begin an MA in Text and Performance (Birkbeck in partnership with RADA) and is currently writing two shows/poetry collections.

Denise Saul’s (panellist) White Narcissi (Flipped Eye Publishing), was Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice for Autumn 2007. Her House of Blue (Rack Press) was PBS Pamphlet Recommendation for Summer 2012. She is the winner of the 2011 Geoffrey Dearmer Prize. Denise is a PhD researcher in creative writing at the University of Roehampton. She is a PBS pamphlet reviewer and editor of RoundTable, University of Roehampton’s first postgraduate journal that promotes creative and critical work by postgraduates and early career researchers within the field of creative writing.

Will Harris (panellist) is an assistant editor at The Rialto, part of the editorial team behind Swimmers and a fellow of The Complete Works III. His debut pamphlet, All this is mplied, was published by HappenStance in June 2017 and his poems will be featured in the Bloodaxe anthology Ten: Poets of the New Generation. He is currently working on a book about representations of mixed identities

Valerie Mason-John MA (Hon Doc) (presentation) Valerie Mason-John was born in 1962 in Cambridge. She studied at Leeds University and later for an MA in Creative Writing at Sussex University, and is a playwright, author and performance poet. She worked as an international correspondent covering Australian aboriginal land rites. Her writing has included articles for various national publications, including The Guardian, The Voice and The Pink Paper, and she has done freelance research work for the BBC, Channel 4 and the Arts Council. She is also a former editor of Feminist Arts News, directed Pride Arts Festival for four years, and was the former artistic director of London Mardi Gras. She is also part of a team of trainers designing anger management programmes for schools.

She was an actress with the Talawa Theatre Company and in 2001 was Artist in Residence for PUSH 2001 at the Young Vic, the National Theatre and the Jerwood space in London. She has undertaken other residencies at Holloway Prison and Elizabeth Garret Anderson School. In 1998, she wrote and produced her first play, Sin Dykes. Since then her theatre writing credits have included Brown Girl in the Ring, a one-woman show which toured nationally, The Adventures of Snow Black and Rose Red, a family pantomime, and most recently, You Get Me, which premièred in 2006.

She edited Talking Black: African and Asian Lesbians Speak Out, published in 1994 and wrote Lesbians Talk: Making Black Waves with Ann Khambatta, published in 1993. Her collection of poems and plays entitled Brown Girl in the Ring was published in 1999. This was followed by her first novel, Borrowed Body (2005, republished in 2007 as The Banana Kid, and in 2014 was re published as Borrowed Body in Canada), told in the voice of Pauline, a young black girl of Nigerian descent, growing up in white foster homes and orphanages, then reclaimed by her mother. It won the 2006 MIND Book of the Year Award. Her book Detox Your Heart (2006) is a non-fiction book dealing with anger, hatred and fear, new edition will be published in 2017.

Since residing in Canada she has co-edited the first national anthology of African-Canadian Poetry, The Great Black North, which won two literary awards. And in 2015 co-produced a talking book of poetic prose to tell the stories of Black people in Halifax Nova Scotia Canada. Her latest book Eight Steps Recovery – Using the Buddha’s Teachings to overcome Addiction (2014) has won two awards. In 1997, Valerie Mason-John was named Britain’s Black Gay Icon and in 2000 won a Windrush Achievement Award for her contribution to the Black British community.  She lives in South London and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in 2007 by the University of East London. She currently resides in Canada.

Jacob Sam-La Rose (presentation) Jacob’s poems and essays have been featured in Out of Bounds: British Black and Asian Poets, Identity Parade: New British and Irish Poets, Penguin’s Poems for Love, In Their Own Words and many more. His work has been translated into Portuguese, Latvian, French and Dutch. Jacob’s debut pamphlet, Communion (2006), was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice and his collection Breaking Silence (2012) was shortlisted for a Forward Poetry Prize (the Felix Dennis Award) and the Aldeburgh Fenton award. Breaking Silence is now a set text for an English Language and Literature A Level.

Jacob leads workshops in schools, other educational institutions, arts centres, cultural venues and community settings, and has developed creative writing and performance programmes for all ages, ranging from first experiences with poetry or work with reluctant writers through to professional and artistic development projects for more established poets, writers and other educators. He’s well known as a leading figure within the UK’s youth slam poetry movement, serving as the Artistic Director for such initiatives as the London Teenage Poetry SLAM, Apples & Snakes Word Cup and Shake the Dust— the UK’s largest national youth slam— as well as supporting the development of Slammarït— the first youth slam programme in Finland. He currently lectures at Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and at Goldsmiths University.

Jennifer Wong (panellist) was born and grew up in Hong Kong. She is the author of two poetry collections, including Summer Cicadas (2006) and Goldfish (2013), both of which are published by Chameleon Press. 

Her poems have appeared in journals including Cha, Eyewear, Morning Star, Frogmore Papers, Warwick Review, Orbis, TATE ETC, UCity Review, QLRS (Quarterly Literary Review of Singapore), Fusion by Prairie Schooner (August 2013 edition), Iota, New Writer and poetry anthologies. Her works have been included in the Oxfam Anthology of Young British Poets edited by Todd Swift and Kim Lockwood (Cinnamon Press 2012), The World Record edited by Neil Astley and (Bloodaxe Books 2012). 

She graduated from Oxford and took an MA in creative writing at the University of East Anglia. She has taught poetry as writer-in-residence at Lingnan University. Recently, she took part in Poetry Parnassus Festival organised by Southbank Centre and the Hong Kong Literary Festival 2012.

Rukhsana Yasmin, Deputy Editor Wasafiri (presentation) Rukhsana has an impressive track record across different aspects of the publishing industry, with over ten years’ experience with renowned publishers, Saqi and Profile Books. In 2012, she was awarded the Kim Scott Walwyn Prize for Women in Publishing, and named as a Bookseller Rising Star in 2014.



Caleb Femi is a portrait photographer, as well as a filmmaker and the Young People’s Laureate for London. Caleb is featured in the Dazed 100 list of the next generation shaping youth culture. ‘Granite As Heirloom’, his debut exhibition, was held at the Space Gallery in East London. Capturing the alchemy of natural light on darker skin is central to Caleb’s portraitures.

Naomi Woddis is a writer and photographer. She has presented work at the London Literature Festival, Southbank Centre, Courtauld Institute of Art, National Gallery, O2 Wireless Festival and Theatre Royal Stratford East. Her photography has been exhibited at Ovalhouse, The Albany, Lewisham Art House, The Nunnery Gallery, The Pie Factory, Margate and The Free Space Project. She is particularly interested in online participatory projects and the links that can be made between image and text as featured in her current online project ‘Whoever Was Using This Bed’.

Evening Reading

Mona Arshi is a British poet. She won the Forward Prize, Felix Dennis Award for Best First Collection in 2015 for her work Small Hands. She was educated at Lampton Comprehensive School In Hounslow. She studied at Guildford College of Law and University College London where she obtained a Masters in human rights law in 2002. She worked for several years as a litigator at Liberty, the Human Rights Organisation. She acted on many high-profile judicial review cases including Diane Pretty’s ‘right to die’ case, asylum destitution cases and death in custody cases.

She began writing poetry in 2008 and then went on to study creative writing (poetry) at the University of East Anglia (MA Creative Writing, 2010). Whilst she was studying for her masters she won first prize in the inaugural Magma poetry competition for her poem ‘Hummingbird’. Then she then went on to become prize winner in the Troubadour International Competition in 2013 for her poem ‘Bad Day in the Office’. In 2014 she was joint winner in the Manchester creative writing competition with a portfolio of five poems. In 2015 she published her first collection of poems ‘Small Hands’ with Pavilion Poetry, a new poetry press from the Liverpool University Press under the editorship of Deryn Rees Jones.

Malika Booker (b. 1970, London) is the author of Breadfruit (flipped eye, 2007), a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, and Pepper Seed (Peepal Tree Press, 2013). She was the inaugural Poet in Residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company and a Fellow of both Cave Canem and The Complete Works. She also appears alongside Sharon Olds and Warsan Shire in Penguin Modern Poets 3.

Booker is of Guyanese and Grenadian parentage: her shortlisted poem, ‘Nine Nights’, is taken from a series of poems around Caribbean funerals written in post as a Douglas Caster Fellow at the University of Leeds. This work takes the form of nine fragments, and charts a vivid intersection between biblical and Grenadian funeral rites: ‘Lazarus dash way hymns and cuss words from he house with the heavy bass of a thumping speaker box.’

Kayo Chingonyi is a fellow of the Complete Works programme for diversity and quality in British Poetry and the author of two pamphlets, Some Bright Elegance (Salt, 2012) and The Colour of James Brown’s Scream (Akashic, 2016). His first full-length collection, Kumukanda, was published in June 2017 by Chatto & Windus. As well as being widely published in journals and anthologies, Kayo has been invited to read from his work at venues and events across the UK and internationally. In 2012 he represented Zambia at Poetry Parnassus, a festival of world poets staged by The Southbank Centre as part of the London 2012 Festival.

He was awarded the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize and shortlisted for the inaugural Brunel University African Poetry Prize and has completed residencies with Kingston University, Cove Park, First Story, The Nuffield Council on Bioethics, and Royal Holloway University of London in partnership with Counterpoints Arts. He was Associate Poet at the Institute of Contemporary Arts from Autumn 2015 to Spring 2016. He co-edited issue 62 of Magma Poetry and the Autumn 2016 edition of The Poetry Review.

Dr Sarah Howe ( see bios – presentation)

Karen McCarthy Woolf (see bios – keynote)



Khairani Barroko – will discuss her research by practice in disability poetics and art, including deaf-accessible poetry-art show Eve and Mary Are Having Coffee, feminist art-music collaboration The 12 Acres Project, poetry-art book Indigenous Species, and her debut poetry collection Rope, as well as performing poetry extracts.

Dzifa Benson – Re-writing the Body – Dzifa will examine theories around the body in a presentation focusing on two shows/collections she is currently writing: the first is a work on Saartjie Baartman, the Hottentot Venus. She will revisit scholarly research into the legal/medical and journalistic depictions of the body in the early 19th to offer a better understanding of this frequently misunderstood/misrepresented woman. Dzifa will also show how theories of the body and contemporary depictions of it have fed into her show, ‘The Spit of Me’ that examines DNA/identity.

Leo Boix – ‘Emperor in Flower Garden’: Poetry in dialogue with Video Art and Performance. A collaborative approach between British artist Pablo Bronstein and Argentine poet, journalist and educator Leo Boix. The talk will focus on ways in which Bronstein, who was given the Tate Britain Duveen commission in2016 and is this year’s juror for the British Pavilion of Architecture at the Venice Biennale, and Boix have collaborated during the last few years, from intricate drawings inspired by prose poems, to flash-fiction illustrations for magazines to a video-performance incorporating elements of the chinoiserie. I will look at  the Baroque, the middle ages, pseudo-historical and camp discourse. For our latest collaboration, we worked on a piece entitled ‘Emperor in Flower Garden’, choreographed, directed and danced by Bronstein. The short film, which includes nine professional dancers and was shot in London, will be premiered at Galleria Franco Noero, Turin, in October.

Victoria-Anne Bulley – Mother Tongues: Translation, Re-routed, poet and filmmaker Victoria Adukwei Bulley presents the motivations and ideas behind her project, MOTHER TONGUES, an intergenerational exploration of poetry in translation via film. Covering four African languages (Shona, Ga, Yoruba and Igbo), each film features acclaimed poets and their mothers collaborating to create translations of original work. Supported generously by Arts Council England and Autograph ABP, MOTHER TONGUES has been screened internationally in Ghana and Wales, in addition to featuring on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour and BBC Africa.

Will Harris – Small Change: A Love Letter, How have poets and songwriters written about mixedness? What relationship does this bear to the growth of scientific racism from the 18th century onwards? What kind of impact has this had on how we love? In this paper, Harris presents part of a work-in-progress: a personal and critical account of the ways in which mixed-race bodies have been represented from John Donne to the Spice Girls, via Carl Linnaeus.

Dr Sarah Howe and Dr Sandeep Parmar will be presenting an informal session discussing the culture of reviewing within the poetry world, with audience participation.

Nick Makoha – The Metic Experience of the Black British Writer: Challenging the Margins
Nick Makoha, Creativeworks London Creative Entrepreneur-in-Residence is working alongside Maura Dooley and Professor Joan Anim-Addo at Goldsmiths, University of London to create an in-depth online digital archive of Black Metic Poets. The term ‘Metic’, first used by T S Eliot, translates as foreigners or resident aliens whose allegiances are split between their homeland and their new country. In detailed interviews Nick has explored how this experience has shaped the lives and work of writers as diverse as Rita Dove, Chris Abani, Terrance Hayes, Elizabeth Alexander, Danez Smith, Kei Miller, Kayo Chingonyi, Malika Booker and Anthony Joseph. He will explore how investigating the metic experience of poets can develop our writing and career in a hope to de-homogenize the Black Metic experience.

Valerie Mason-John M.A (Hon doc) – Black Halifax, presenting pieces documenting the history of black people in Halifax Nova Scotia with links to the UK and Sierra Leone.

Dr Deidre Osborne, (Goldsmiths, University of London)

‘“You think remembering me is enough. It’s not” (from ‘At the Grave of the Unknown African, Henbury Parish Church’): The Landmark Poetics of Fred D’Aguiar and Dorothea Smartt’

A number of black British poets have contributed innovatively to restoring black heritages to contemporary culture through poetry’s multiple performativity as public art, social retrieval and memorial. Nearly ten years ago, I coined the category ‘Landmark Poetics’ to distinguish poems (by Patience Agbabi, SuAndi, Lemn Sissay) that are inscribed upon material surfaces other than paper – especially those that have a commemorative function. Landmark Poetics hear echoes that reverberate through history to (re)imagine the lives of people culturally devalued or overlooked by national record-keeping, in more respect worthy terms.

Joseph Priestley (1788) paralleled ‘visible monuments’ and ‘historical poems’ as a means of ‘perpetuating memory’ to prevent the ‘loss of history’, and as being of crucial importance to civic life. This concrete memorialising of black people’s presences in Britain was first located on gravestones and plaques dedicated to anonymous Africans or those people who were renamed by Europeans as a result of enslavement or service. The effacement of identities, whether through being classed as disposable asset, or through being renamed and denied any right to personhood and (self)worth is the catalyst for Fred D’Aguiar’s poem ‘At the Grave of the Unknown African, Henbury Parish Church’ and Dorothea Smartt’s contemporary elegy for Samboo of Samboo’s Grave, a much-visited tourist site at Sunderland Point, which she evolved into a sequence of thirty-five ‘Bilal’ poems.

While both poets embroider a richly imagined tapestry, to repair the threadbare evidence left by history’s traces, they also offer a range of styles and techniques that best evoke, articulate and engage the reader with their literary qualities and generate fresh meanings and relevance through acts of fabulous poetic fabulation. Their works confirm poetry’s capacity for questioning ‘its relationship with the categorical costumes of the past and present in order to explore what is politically and poetically possible in the future.’ (Murphy 2010) This paper examines how both D’Aguiar and Smartt aesthetically respond to the generically ‘unknown’ African person’s possible life (literally and literarily) from the grave, to poetically prove that dead men really do tell tales.

Dr Sandeep Parmar – Lyric Violence and the Nomadic subject, ‘The nomad does not stand for homelessness, or compulsive displacement; it is rather a figuration for the kind of subject who has relinquished all idea, desire or nostalgia for fixity.’ (Rosi Braidotti) This paper will explore Braidotti’s figuration of the nomad within particular forms of lyric subjectivity, especially in relation to national borders their literary traditions. What violence might the traditional British lyric inflict on minority voices? How does nostalgia and trauma situate the lyric or nomadic subject? How do modes of reading, production and literary communities fix the subject within certain limits of lyric practice? These questions will be explored through readings of poetry by Bhanu Kapil, among others.

Roger Robinson This paper will address the practice of creative individuals new strategies of citizenship founded in the creation of media content and creative civic participation. For the purposes of this paper creative citizenship will be defined as creativity which deconstructs or challenges accepted norms of citizenship within social media or communities. The paper develops its observations through examination of some of the themes emerging in the past five years and examining the creative citizenship practice of the author and the moving on to suggest some suggestions and advice about setting up and sustaining a creative citizenship practice.

Denise Saul – Speech Act: Poeticizing The Experience of Disability, In this paper, I argue that the bodily experience of a speech act is a direct expression of the disabled body or a lived experience in some contemporary poetry of aphasia. In poetry of this nature, the speech act of a disabled self refers to gesture or the act of pointing, and aphasic disturbances or metaphorical thinking. I consider philosopher, Judith Butler’s Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative (1997), to explore metaphor as a kind of speech act that replaces the disabled voice. As an abled poet, I am interested in showing whether this relationship can be extended to my own creative practice, Of Glass. The analysis of aphasia in terms of a speech act, offers a valuable insight into the relationship between language and the disabled body.

Dr Nathalie Teitler
Morning presentation, Freed Verse report- Ten Years Later.
The Freed Verse report is an updated version of the seminal Free Verse report ( Mel Larsen and Danuta Kean; ACE) that highlighted the fact that less than 1% of poetry published by major presses in the UK was by Black/ Asian poets. Freed Verse will show the newest research figures after ten years of work. It will also act at the first comprehensive research document into the history of diversity in UK poetry for the last 20 years. It will chart the beginning of the first specialist courses, collectives and presses (Afrostyles with Kwame Dawes at Spread the Word, Malika’s Kitchen, Peepal Tree etc.) and show how these initiatives paved the way for the Complete Works Poetry to do its ground-breaking work. It will also examine those areas of the original report that require further examination: the idea that there are ‘major presses’ in light of the growing impact of independents; the strict division between spoken word and page poetry which no longer exists in the same way; the concept of diversity being about race only and the need to expand it to include disability, class, sexuality (including non-binary gender) and multi-lingual work. Through numerous interviews and gathering first-hand accounts, Dr Teitler will create a document which can stand as a valuable research tool for years to come.

Afternoon presentation
Dr Teitler will be presenting the new pieces created by her dance-poetry Company, Dancing Words which allows poetry to breathe through movement. The newest films are made with poets Mona Arshi and Sarah Howe and dancer/choreographers Shelley Maxwell and Ella Mesma. They are made by filmmaker Fiona Melville and will feature original music by composer Tom Szirtes.

Jennifer Wong
‘I’m not anybody of colour’

When it happens it is down to me.
When it happens it is in my head.

I can say the names as well as you.
Lick the whip round my thick lips.
I can say the names as well as you.

It is all my fault for reading
something into nothing.

(‘Race, Racist, Racism’ by Jackie Kay)

In today’s publishing world, diversity is often discussed or understood in terms of a permissible language, such as ‘BAME’, ’poets of colour’ or ‘ethnic poets’. While these labels help to encourage acceptance or inclusion on a certain level, they are also quite misleading, and unintentionally reinforce certain stereotypes about writers from more international or multicultural backgrounds. The appropriation of such labels also compels the ‘minority’ writer to view his or her creative expression consciously as a necessary act of performance. These jargons prompt one to contemplate a writer’s identity in terms of appropriating, resisting or reinventing language to assimilate or delineate himself or herself within British culture. As described by Miles, analytically race is a sort of ‘paper tiger’, and that minority politics essentially has to do with class struggles and the issue of mobility.

As a response to the concerns over the discourse on diversity, I will illustrate and question how people from foreign or multicultural backgrounds are labelled, accepted, or excluded in today’s British society by creating and presenting a poem sequence focused on the act of speaking and language(s) of denial. In this sequence, I will explore and transform found texts such as the texts from poetry publications and the publishing world that attempt to locate or describe diversity, as well as the poetic language of the so-called ‘poets of colour’. The experiments with poetic language in my presentation will be informed by my reflection on the works included in the Bloodaxe anthologies of multicultural poets in the recent decades, including Out of Bounds and Ten: Spread the Word.

By exposing and amalgamating such texts, I aim to highlight the complexity of addressing the question of race or in embracing cultural diversity, and to explore the visible and invisible barriers encountered by ‘minority’ poets in locating, expressing and appreciating their identities.