Collections in Verse

Poet in the City and the British Library commission celebrated poets to create new work inspired by British Library exhibitions and local histories, stories and experiences in 5 UK Cities.


What would an exhibition tour look like without objects, but using poetry instead?

Collection in Verse is Poet in the City’s exciting new project in partnership with the British Library, using poetry events and commissions to bring British Library exhibitions to life in five cities across the UK. Over the course of three years we’ll be visiting libraries and community centres in Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle, Reading and Exeter, engaging with local poets to respond to and animate the exhibitions in a way that tells the story specific to that city, through a range of exciting new poetry shows and events.

The project will launch in Leeds, beginning development in April 2018 and culminating in a range of events in March 2019. The programme will work with local communities to influence and inspire the exhibitions to take on different shapes around the country, representing diverse regions across the UK touring map. Our aspirations for the project are that it will allow for wider access to British Library exhibitions, and in turn encourage a larger range of voices to get involved in the discussions they incite. By putting libraries and communities at the centre of our project, we hope to build vibrant creative hubs for poetry performance that will continue to thrive after we are gone.

The first exhibition we’ll be visiting is Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land, a landmark installation commemorating 70 years since the ship the Empire Windrush arrived in the UK carrying hundreds of migrants from the Caribbean. The exhibition will explore the significance of the Windrush movement, its broader implications in Caribbean history, and in the development of British multiculturalism. Windrush will first visit Leeds where three local poets will look to explore the stories it inspires telling. The three poets for Leeds will be Malika Booker, Khadijah Ibrahim, and Vahni Capildeo who each have their own relationships to the city, and will seek to use their standing in the community to bring audiences to the library. Windrush is a momentous occasion in many people’s heritage, and we look forward to how it is reflected in contrasting cities.

About our Leeds Artists:

Khadijah Ibrahim

Leeds-based poet, playwright and activist Khadijah Ibrahiim is of Jamaican parentage, born and raised in Leeds. She is Artistic Director of Leeds Young Authors and the Producer of Leeds Youth poetry Slam festival. Her work has been published in Peepal Tree Press and she has attended Calabash International Literature Festival in Jamaica as a delegate for the Art Council England. Hailed as one of Yorkshire’s ‘most prolific’ poets by BBC Radio, she continues to make stage appearances across Britain, the USA, the Caribbean and Africa.

Malika Booker

Malika Booker is a British poet and multidisciplinary artist of Guyanese and Grenadian Parentage. Her poetry collection Pepper Seed (Peepal Tree Press, 2013) was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre prize for first full collection (2014). She appears with Warsan Shire in The Penguin Modern Poet Series (2017), and was inaugural Poet in Residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company. She was the Douglas Caster Cultural Fellow in Creative Writing at the University of Leeds, where she is now a LHRI Fellow and Creative Writing Teaching Fellow. She runs ‘Malika’s Kitchen’, a writers’ collective in London and Chicago.

Vahni Capildeo

Vahni Capildeo works with multilingualism, place and memory. Their books include Venus as a Bear (Carcanet 2018; Forward Poetry Prizes Best Collection shortlist) and Measures of Expatriation (Forward Poetry Prizes Best Collection 2016). Capildeo has worked in academia and culture for development at Commonwealth Writers. Theatre collaborations include radical Shakespeare at the Southbank Centre, and responses to the Guyanese revolutionary poet Martin Carter. Capildeo is a traditional masquerader, with homes in Scotland and Trinidad. Capildeo is the Douglas Caster Cultural Fellow in Poetry at the University of Leeds.


About our Partners:

Collections in Verse will be delivered in partnership with the British Library and Living Knowledge Network Library Partners.


British Library

The British Library is the national library of the UK, with sites in St Pancras, London and Boston Spa, Leeds. It is a public institution and one of the world’s largest research libraries, containing over 150 million items in every language that is known, including books, journals, newspapers, magazines, sound and music recordings, patents, maps, prints, drawings and much more.


Living Knowledge Network

The “Living Knowledge Network” is an innovative partnership between the British Library and 22 major libraries across the UK, and in partnership with the National Library of Scotland and the National Library of Wales. Through sharing resources, skills and ideas, it aspires to create value by sharing ideas and sparking connections between libraries, collections and people across the UK, by promoting: knowledge exchange – increasing collective capacity and impact to deliver world-class library services to diverse communities; a joint offer to audiences – breaking down institutional barriers to share activities and content; and build the network power of libraries, collaborating to access funding, gather evidence and share programmes with its 13 million shared users.


Stay tuned for further information on our upcoming Collections in Verse events!


For further information on Collections in Verse please contact Claire Stone, Senior Creative Producer at Poet in the City on 0207 012 2823 /