From the anti-war and civil rights movements to feminist and LGBT activism, this series puts focus on the women poets who played a crucial role in the seismic social and political change of 1968, 50 years on.

In partnership with Wilton's Music Hall and Virago.

Part 1: Maya Angelou 

A performance bringing together voices from across generations, nations and disciplines to celebrate the work of one of the most prolific and profound poets of the 20th and 21st centuries: Maya Angelou

Through her poetry and activism, Maya Angelou healed a nation, transforming the narrative around race and identity politics at a personal and global scale. 50 years since the seismic Civil Rights events of 1968, on Monday 16th April 2018, Poet in the City celebrated the extraordinary impact of this phenomenal woman for a night of discussion, poetry performances and live music.

Featuring Angelou’s UK editor Lennie Goodings, who opened show with an introduction to the life of Maya Angelou as well as sharing her own favourite personal memories of the poet; we were also joined by writer and broadcaster Afua Hirsch, following on from her article about Maya Angelou’s influence on millions of young women, explored the enduring legacy of Maya Angelou on women for generations to come.

The event featured readings by actress Sheila Atim (Girl from the North Country) and some of London’s finest young jazzers, led by Miryam Solomon, bringing to life the sounds of Maya Angelou’s America.

Part 2: Adrienne Rich

Get to know the poet who forged a new language for sexuality and war politics for generations to come: Adrienne Rich.

For Adrienne Rich, poetry was not intended to massage an egotistical dream of the aesthetic. She wrote to bring change into being, to break taboos and to challenge perceived truth. On Monday 23rd April 2018, we heard from some of the voices who have been deeply inspired by Rich, the revolutionary poet still considered today as one of the most poignant voices behind the 1960’s anti-war, feminist and LGBT rights movements.

The event featured writer and academic Joanna Bourke,who joined us to provide a contextual overview to the life and work of Rich; poet Mary Jean Chan explored how Rich has both paved the way for a new generation of female and LGBTQ activists and how she has been a personal inspiration; poet and academic Mark Ford spoke about Rich's involvement in the anti-war movement, and also about the importance of her work in the American cannon; and poet and writer Aoife Mannix joined us to perform Adrienne Rich's poetry.


Lennie Goodings is the chair at Virago publishing, a company she worked at for over 20 years. During this time Lennie Goodings was Maya Angelou’s UK editor, as well as many other leading female writers discovered by Virago, a publisher with a mission to champion women’s voices and bring them to the widest possible readership around the world. 

Afua Hirsch is a writer, broadcaster, barrister and human rights development worker of Ghanaian, English and Jewish heritage. She is the Social Affairs and Education Editor for Sky News and was previously a correspondent for the British newspaper The Guardian. 

Sheila Atim played Marianne Laine in Girl from the North Country (Old Vic & Noël Coward Theatre), for which, at the time of writing, she has received Olivier and Evening Standard Award nominations and a Critics' Choice Award. Recent theatre credits include Babette’s Feast (Coronet Printroom); The Tempest, Henry IV and Julius Ceasar as part of the Shakespeare Trilogy (Donmar Warehouse); Hopelessly Devoted (Paines Plough) and Les Blancs (National Theatre). Sheila’s television credits include I Live With Models and the upcoming second series of Harlots.

Miryam Solomon is a London based singer/songwriter, by way of Sweden and Eritrea. She released her debut EP Evergreen in 2014 and returns with Women Make Music award funded Magnolia featuring contributions from artists such as Jean Berthon and Shabaka Hutchings and support from Jamie Cullum, Jazz FM and NTS.

Joanna Bourke is Professor of History at Birkbeck College and is a Fellow of the British Academy. Over the years, her books have ranged from the social and economic history of Ireland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, to social histories of the British working classes between 1860 and 1960s, to cultural histories of military conflict between the Anglo-Boer war and the present. She has worked on the history of the emotions, particularly fear and hatred, and the history of sexual violence. Joanna is also the author of Pain and Poetics: Forty Years of Adrienne Rich.

Mary Jean Chan is a poet, editor and academic from Hong Kong. Her work has appeared in The 2018 Forward Book of Poetry, The Poetry Review, Poetry London, PN Review, Ambit Magazine, The Rialto, The London Magazine, Oxford Poetry, Callaloo Journal, The Asian American Writers’ Workshop, Magma, The Scores, Tongue and English: Journal of the English Association. Her debut pamphlet, A Hurry of English, was published by ignitionpress (Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre), and was recently selected as the 2018 Poetry Book Society Summer Pamphlet Choice. She is a Ledbury Emerging Poetry Critic and an editor of Oxford Poetry. Her debut collection will be published by Faber & Faber in July 2019.

Mark Ford was born in Nairobi, Kenya, and earned both his BA and DPhil from the University of Oxford. His collections of poetry include Landlocked (1991), Soft Sift (2001), Six Children (2011), and Selected Poems (2014). He is the author of a biography, Raymond Roussel and the Republic of Dreams (2000), and a parallel text translation of Roussel’s last poem, Nouvelles Impressions d’Afrique (New Impressions of Africa) (2011), which was the runner-up for a PEN Award for Poetry in Translation from the PEN American Center. Ford’s criticism and essays have appeared widely in journals such as the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books. He has published two collections of criticism, A Driftwood Altar (2005) and Mr and Mrs Stevens and Other Essays (2011), and edited the anthology London: A History in Verse (2012). His honors and awards include a Kennedy Scholarship at Harvard University and a visiting lectureship at the University of Kyoto. Ford lives in London and teaches at University College, London.

Aoife Mannix is a poet, writer, and educator. She has published four collections of poetry and a novel. She has been poet in residence for the Royal Shakespeare Company and BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live. She has toured internationally with the British Council including most recently Mexico, Vietnam and Nigeria. She has a PhD in creative writing from Goldsmiths, University of London.