Patience Agbabi FRSL (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 gender identity are important in her poetry.
Agbabi began performing on the London club circuit in 1995. She has cited among her influences Janis Joplin, Carol Ann Duffy, Chaucer, and various aspects of contemporary music and culture. Her childhood love of cake is apparent in 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, its poetry and its performance elements. The book met with praise from poets who include 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 shown at literature festivals, arts spaces and libraries across the UK. She is also the author of the poetry collections Bloodshot Monochrome (2008), Transformatrix (2000) and R.A.W (1995), which received the Excelle Literary Award in 1997.
Agbabi has performed extensively and 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 undertaken British Council reading tours of Namibia, the Czech Republic, Zimbabwe, Germany and Switzerland. 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 ten 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 at British Council: Literature.
- Young, Victoria (5 March 2005), "Giving the Boys at Eton Poetry to Think About", New York Times, retrieved 1 April 2008
- "Patience Agbabi: her new book Telling Tales". renaissance one. Archived from the original on 12 February 2015. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
- "Performance poets | Apples and Snakes". Apples and Snakes. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
- 2014 Shortlist, Ted Hughes Award, The Poetry Society.
- Natasha Onwuemezi, "Rankin, McDermid and Levy named new RSL fellows", The Bookseller, 7 June 2017.
- Charlotte Runcie (2014): "Patience Agbabi: Chaucer remixed. The poet Patience Agbabi tells Charlotte Runcie why she has updated the Canterbury Tales", The Telegraph, 27 April 2014
- Alison Flood (2014): "Funky Chaucer reboot by Patience Agbabi due for April launch", The Guardian, 23 January 2014
- Katy Evans-Bush (2013): "Patience Agbabi", Poetry International Web, 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
- Patience Agbabi
- Bloodshot_Monochrome Reader comments on Bloodshot Monochrome
- Nisha Obano, "Patience Agbabi", Encyclopedia of Afro-European Studies
- "Poet Patience Agbabi re-tells The Canterbury Tales", 17 May 2010
- Eat Me Poem Analysis and Commentary
- Patience Agbabi on BBC Radio 4 Front Row