Review: Dead (Women) Poets
There was a feeling of voices being heard, finally.

Amelia Platt is a 17-year-old student at Reepham Sixth Form and a participant of Lit from the Inside, our professional development programme that enables 14 – 17-year-olds to take a behind-the-scenes look at the literary arts scene in Norwich.

As part of the programme, Amelia was given the opportunity to attend a Dead Women Poets Society event, funded by Arts Council England and hosted by Millennium Library, and shares her review below.

“We are not talking about forgettable women.”

With these words the poet Caroline Bird captured the importance and essence of the Dead (Women) Poets Society. The aim of the Dead Women Poets Society is to resurrect lost female voices and introduce their work to a wider audience. I was lucky enough to attend a recent “séance” hosted by the Society at the forum in Norwich. The evening was incredible, moving and left me with a burning desire to explore the lives and works of other female poets. The evening was a wonderful celebration of women poets past and present, creating a community that bridges decades.

The poets, Jade Cuttle and Caroline Bird, brought to life the artists, Giselle Prassinos and Anna Wickham. The first part of the evening begins with the two headline artists introducing their dead women poets to the audience. They then responded to each women’s work with a performance of their own original commissioned poems. For me, this was the highlight of the event, a glorious upcycling of literature. I was especially drawn to Jade Cuttle’s musical and multi-lingual response to one of Gisselle Prassinos’ poems.

‘The poets’ voices shine through, resurrected’

The two headlines acts were very impressive. Caroline Bird, a wonderful stage presence, performed from her new poetry pamphlet, The Air Year. Jade Cuttle brought Giselle Prassinos to life by focussing on the beauty of language. It was a pleasure to watch such talented poets, looking back and exploring women in poetry who might otherwise have been forgotten.

There was something incredibly empowering about seeing the work of these artists reach a new audience, a feeling of voices being heard, finally. Though all the poets’ styles are wildly different, there was a feeling of complete connectivity. The evening is a celebration of women’ poets past and present, a community that bridges decades. The poets’ voices shine through, resurrected.
It was the little details which made the event stand out; the free poem by a ‘dead woman poet’ given to every audience member, the séance hand stamp, the stage decorations. I loved the openness and accessibility of the event. This was the key to its success; not an event for academics but for anyone with a love of words.

‘Their talent astounded me and so did the atmosphere’

The second part of the evening gave the stage to open mic-ers. I thought this element was a beautiful touch, a passing of the baton of sorts. The rule was that all open mic performers must read a poem from a dead woman or non-binary poet for every poem of their own that they perform. This had the successful effect of creating an event that balances both looking back and looking to the future. There was something lovely about seeing poets from all generations being applauded by a supportive audience. Their talent astounded me and so did the atmosphere in which their work was received, it was warm, welcoming and kind. These poets at least will not be forgotten!

I would strongly recommend attending a Dead (Women) Poet’s Society event. The project will be touring the country into Autumn 2020. It broadened my horizons to the invisible women of poetry and inspired me to go away and research new poets. The event is well worth a try just to experience the fantastic atmosphere of a community joined in appreciation of poets both old and new. Appreciation is critical and the show challenges and evaluates. This event celebrates women, past and present. The line, “We are all Queens,” is a fantastic epitaph for this event, it provides a long overdue coronation for our lost queens of poetry.

Amelia also took part in our Engage! programme in 2019. A collaborative project between four cities across Europe, Engage! saw fifteen Norfolk young people plan and deliver a festival in a day, which explored social activism and attracted speakers from across the world. Explore the festival highlights below:

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