More Patience….


Patience Agbabi’s East Coast speaking tour has an additional date and locale: Monday, 13 November 2017, at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York. If you’re in the vicinity, we highly recommend you make the effort to attend–and bring your students.

Patience never disappoints.



Patience Agbabi in Boston, 25 November!


Patience Agbabi will be making one of her few U.S. appearances on 25 November 2017, 7pm, at Boston College.  Her readings and performances are unparalleled, as those of us  at NCS 2016 in London witnessed. If you’re in the area, don’t miss this opportunity.

For more details, see the Lowell Humanities Lecture Series website.

Wales Book of the Year in 2015: English language poetry shortlist


In a bit of belated news, one of our favorite Global Chaucers, Patience Agbabi’s Telling Tales, was short-listed for the Roland Mathias poetry award as part of the 2015 Wales Book of the Year selections (English language category).  Agbabi’s Welsh heritage adds another interesting dimension to her fabulous adaptation of The Canterbury Tales. (Thanks to Jackie Burek for the tip!)

(Image: Catryn Williams, “At y Chwarel”)


Refugee Tales: ebook available now!


Cover of Refugee Tales (forthcoming from Comma Press, 2016).

Refugee Tales is now available for purchase as an e-book (or pre-order a hard copy)!

This collection includes the contributions by Patience Agbabi (former Poet Laureate of Canterbury and author of Chaucerian remix Telling Tales), as well as other artists and storytellers from varied backgrounds. (We’ve mentioned Agbabi’s work throughout various blog posts, and you can read more about the “Refugee Tales” project here; see also my related posting on the global refugee crisis at In The Middle.)

Refugee Tales is a multi-voiced collection that conveys “the frighteningly common experiences of Europe’s new underclass – its refugees. … Presenting their accounts anonymously, as modern day counterparts to the pilgrims’ stories in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, this book offers rare, intimate glimpses into otherwise untold suffering” (read more on the Comma Press website).

I’ve already acquired the e-book and can already say that the poetry and stories in this book are at once beautiful, provocative, and moving.

Note all profits from this book go to the Gatwick Detainee Welfare Group and Kent Help for Refugees.

Note there are many events happening in July 2016 (before and throughout the New Chaucer Society Congress in London) relating to the Refugee Tales project; see event listing here (note the forum and various scheduled legs of the walk, a “reverse” pilgrimage along the route from Canterbury to Westminster).

Upcoming events of interest:

Friday, 8 July 2016: Presentations from Refugee Tales at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. Ali Smith,”The Detainees Tale”; David Herd, “The Prologue;” and Patience Agbabi, “The Refugee’s Tale.” [Book tickets here – SOLD OUT as of 10 June]

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: Reading by Patience Agbabi coinciding with the New Chaucer Society Congress in London; she will deliver an interactive reading entitled “Herkne and Rede” drawing from Telling Tales that explores poetry performance as dynamic adaptation. [This is a public event. Scroll to the end of this schedule; more info will be forthcoming on this blog]

The Refugee Tales Walk

DSCF2129_lonewalkerTaking a cue from Chaucer’s band of pilgrims,  participants in Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group’s Refugee Tales Walk are midway through their 9-day walk on the North Downs Way from Dover to Crawley via Canterbury. Along the way, writers, musicians and other artists will share tales inspired by the migrants and refugees: The General Prologue, The Migrant’s Tale, The Chaplain’s Tale, The Unaccompanied Minor’s Tale, The Arriver’s Tale, The Lorry Driver’s Tale, The Visitor’s Tale, The Detainee’s Tale, The Interpreter’s Tale, The Appellant’s Tale, The Counsellor’s Tale, The Dependent’s Tale, The Friend’s Tale, The Deportee’s Tale, The Lawyer’s Tale, The Refuge’s Tale, The Ex-Detainee’s Tale, and a Reprise of the Tales.

Photos and journal entries provide the rest of us an opportunity to share in the events.

Thanks to Dan Kline for alerting us to this deeply moving project.

See also, the Times Higher Education article.

Briefly Noted: Ashton on Chaucer and Medieval Afterlives


Cover of Medieval Afterlives ed Ashton
Cover of Medieval Afterlives ed. Ashton

A few weeks ago, Gail Ashton (who we have featured on this blog here and here) wrote a posting about Chaucer for the Bloomsbury Literary Studies blog. Ashton’s posting entitled “What the Dickens shall we do about Chaucer?” considers the “residual” presence of Chaucer in present-day British culture, and it ends with a revealing interview about Chaucer in the schools with former Welsh poet laureate Gwyneth Lewis and former Canterbury poet laureate Patience Agbabi.

Ashton’s posting also nicely ends with a plug for her forthcoming edited collection entitled Medieval Afterlives in Contemporary Culture (Bloomsbury, forthcoming 2015). Candace Barrington and I have a co-authored article entitled “Global Chaucers” in that collection–so stay tuned!

Pilgrim out of town: Chaucer’s Modern Echoes

by Gail Ashton

St. Pancras, Gray’s Inn Road, to Holborn… Holborn viaduct with its knight flanked by two dragons guarding one of the old city gates…on to Cheapside, Poultry, Bankside…and there ahead London Bridge streaming with traffic and people: to the left, upriver, Tower Bridge, to the right St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the dirty old River Thames chopping and surging below and everywhere crowds walking as if they know where they’re going, contemporary buildings scraping the skyline. And, as if from nowhere, Southwark Cathedral tucked into a hollow, its perfect rising tower the centrepiece to long sweeps of stone fanning out on either side.

This is the oldest church building in London. It stands at the oldest crossing point of the tidal river Thames and was for many centuries the only entrance to the city this side of the river. Some believe there was a place of worship here as far back as Roman times but the ‘modern’ cathedral was re-founded in 1106 by 2 Norman knights. It has had a long and colourful history thereafter.

Yet, as befits this evening’s event with its title Chaucer’s Modern Echoes, this is not simply a medieval shrine but a building at the heart of contemporary life. It’s ringed by the Thames, by bridges and tenement-style wharfsides. In the closing years of the last century the Millennium Buildings were created where the priory of the religious community once stood. Soon there will be a new railway viaduct and the tallest building in Europe, the Shard, standing nearby. Around a corner and along an alleyway and here are the ruins of Winchester Palace, home to a host of medieval bishops. There’s a replica of the Golden Hinde ship, a sign to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and the Clink Museum, site of the former Clink Prison, the oldest gaol in England dating back to 1140.To the left of the cathedral, the small busy Borough market is crammed beneath the railway viaduct, and all the time trains grind along the track, postmodern structures in glass and steel mesh lean into the cathedral yard, straining for a share of its light.

This is a narrow cathedral, the eye drawn to the altar with its small high window. I almost overlook John Gower’s gaudy tomb tucked into the wall and just beyond it Chaucer’s window which depicts the Canterbury pilgrims about to set off on their journey. And before I can even get in to look around I have to wait for the close of a memorial service dedicated to one Michael Cox, master vinter and part of a family owned UK wine company; it’s as if Chaucer has just stepped from the shadows for a last glance at the evening to come.

Tom Eveson and Gabby Meadows intersperse the performances with extracts from Troilus and Criseyde and The Canterbury Tales, Tom in his fabulous rendition of Middle English and Gabby with her mellifluous modern readings. I speak about Chaucer’s literary heritage and his contemporary afterlives with special nods to the fabulous LeVostreGC aka Brantley Bryant and to the medieval meme rendition of the Mamas and the Papas (I never thought I’d be singing in Southwark Cathedral). Lavinia Greenlaw took us on a narrative journey through her haunting A Double Sorrow. And Patience Agbabi blew the roof off with her dramatic performances from Telling Tales: Harry Bailly’s fictional biography; the Prologue’s Grime Mix; her Prioress’s Tale or the amazing Sharps an Flats; the sassy Things alias The Shipman’s Tale; Unfinished Business or the Melibee, her clever and disturbing mirror poem; before ending with Makar, the Franklin’s Tale.

Best of all, as we take turns to speak, in my left ear all night is the rumble and clatter of trains, a helicopter whirring, and Patience stepping into her Sharps an Flats with its call to Damilola stabbed in real life and left to bleed to death in a stairwell, a police siren wailing in time to Chaucer’s still ticking pulse.

My warmest thanks to Poet in the City, especially to Isobel Colchester, Suzy Cooper and Gabby Meadows for hosting and organising this amazing event. And too to the Dean of Southwark Cathedral for bringing over 300 people into such an iconic space.

Watch out for audio interviews when they’re released.