Patience Agbabi (born 1965) is a British poet and performer with a particular emphasis on the spoken word. Although her poetry is hard-hitting in addressing contemporary themes, her work often makes use of strong formal constraints, including traditional poetic forms. She has described herself as 'bi-cultural' and bisexual, and issues of racial, sexual, and gender identity are important in her poetry.
Agbabi began performing on the London club circuit in 1995. She has cited her influences as including Janis Joplin, Carol Ann Duffy, Chaucer, and various aspects of contemporary music and culture. She loved cake as a child influencing her poem "Eat Me".
Poetry and performances
Her latest book Telling Tales was published by Canongate in 2014. It revisits Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales and mines the Middle-English masterwork to offer a 21st-century take on the characters, as well as the book's poetry and performance elements. The book was met with praise from acclaimed poets including Simon Armitage, who described it as "the liveliest versions of Chaucer you're likely to read." Agbabi continues to tour Telling Tales as a performance poetry production, featuring at literature festivals, arts spaces and libraries across the UK. She is also the author of poetry collections Bloodshot Monochrome (2008), Transformatrix (2000) and R.A.W (1995).
Agbabi's first collection of poetry, R.A.W, was published in 1995 and received the Excelle Literary Award in 1997.
She has performed extensively and also worked in collaboration with other writers. Her work has also been influenced by rap rhythms and wordplay. She was a member of Atomic Lip, which has been described as "poetry's first pop group". They worked together from 1995 to 1998 and their last tour, Quadrophonix (1998) merged live and video performance. In 1996 she worked on a performance piece called FO(U)R WOMEN, with Adeola Agbebiyi and Dorothea Smartt, first performed at the Institute of Contemporary Arts.
As well as performing in Britain, Agbabi has also undertaken reading tours of Namibia, the Czech Republic, Zimbabwe, Germany and Switzerland, working with the British Council. She took part in "Modern Love", a spoken-word tour produced by renaissance one which explored love and modern relationships, touring the UK and Switzerland.
Her poetry has been featured on television and radio, including the Channel 4 series Litpop in 1998 and on the children's programme Blue Peter in 1999. In 2000, she was one of 10 poets commissioned by BBC Radio 4 to write a poem for National Poetry Day. In 2004, she was named as one of the Next Generation poets.
Her second book, Transformatrix is a commentary on contemporary Britain which draws inspiration from popular music forms.
Agbabi is a former Poet Laureate of Canterbury. She has taught and run workshops and also been poet-in-residence at various places, ranging from Oxford Brookes University to a London tattoo and piercing studio. She has an MA in Creative Writing, the Arts and Education from the University of Sussex, and in September 2002 she was appointed Associate Creative Writing Lecturer at the University of Wales, Cardiff.
- The Wife of Bafa (text); Analysis of The Wife of Bafa
- Telling Tales, Canongate Books (2014).
- Bloodshot Monochrome, Canongate (2008).
- Transformatrix, Canongate (2000).
- R.A.W., Canongate (1995).
- Patience Agbabi
- Young, Victoria (March 5, 2005), "Giving the Boys at Eton Poetry to Think About", New York Times, retrieved 2008-04-01
- "Patience Agbabi: her new book Telling Tales". renaissance one. Retrieved 2015-03-23.
- "Performance poets | Apples and Snakes". Apples and Snakes. Retrieved 2015-03-23.
- Charlotte Runcie (2014): Patience Agbabi: Chaucer remixed. The poet Patience Agbabi tells Charlotte Runcie why she has updated the Canterbury Tales, telegraph.co.uk, 27 April 2014
- Alison Flood (2014): , theguardian.com, 23 January 2014
- Katy Evans-Bush (2013): Patience Agbabi, poetryinternationalweb.net, 11 September 2013
- Lee M. Jenkins (2011): Interculturalism: Imtiaz Dharker, Patience Agbabi, Jackie Kay and contemporary Irish poets, Chapter 8 in: The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-Century British and Irish Women's Poetry, ISBN 9780511973390, pp. 119-135.
- Alex Goody (2010): Contemporary British poetry, in: The Cambridge Companion to Modern British Culture, ISBN 9780511780776, pp. 137-153.
- Patience Agbabi at British Council: Literature
- Telling Tales, patienceagbabi.wordpress.com
- greenbelt.org: Patience Agbabi
- Reader omments on Bloodshot Monochrome, goodreads.com
- Nisha Obano: Patience Agbabi: Biography, Bibliography, Online resources
- Poet Patience Agbabi re-tells The Canterbury Tales, artscouncil.org.uk, 17 May 2010