Poetry and Spoken Word Group

Welcome to the SoA Poetry and Spoken Word Group (PSWG) page, a professional community for poets and spoken word artists. We come together to discuss issues affecting poets and the spoken word community, offer advice and support, and raise the profile of poetry and performance.

PSWG is run by an elected committee and a professional secretary from the SoA, a joint position currently shared between Jo McCrum and Nadia Bonini. We welcome new and existing SoA members. Please email Jo McCrum if you would like to get involved and be added to our newsletter. 

We run events to give members the opportunity to mingle and socialise and we hold an Annual General Meeting, during which the Chair presents the committee’s annual report to the members, followed by a panel on How to Make a Living as a Poet with experienced poets and spoken-word artists.

We also send out quarterly newsletters with info and opportunities in the world of poetry and spoken word, as well as news, advice and other related features. If you have something you would like to include in the PSWG newsletter, please contact Nadia Bonini.

Making a Living as a Poet

Throughout our first year (2016-17), we held a series of events at festivals across the country on the theme of making money while working in poetry. Conversations with many different poets have thrown up lots of useful advice and interesting anecdotes (you can read about individual events on our Noticeboard below), and we have also produced an introductory guide, covering the most common tips. Download it for free here

Facebook and Twitter

We have specially created groups and lists for PSWG members on our social media channels. We’d love for PSWG members to join our members-only Facebook discussion group, to exchange ideas, offer advice to others and discuss topics affecting poets and the spoken word community. Join here.

In addition, we also have a private Twitter list for PSWG members on Twitter, where you can see poetry and spoken word related topics being discussed in real time with PSWG members. To be added onto the list, contact Nadia Bonini.

Remember, for any queries that require immediate or specialist advice, contact our advisors directly on info@societyofauthors.org, or call the office on 020 7373 6642.

Poetry and Spoken Word AGM

Our latest Annual General Meeting for the year 2018 took place on 31 January 2019 at the Royal Court Theatre in London. The AGM was followed by the panel How To Make a Living as a Poet with Rachael Allen and Roy McFarlane, chaired by Tamar Yoseloff. Login to read the Chair's report.

The next 2019 AGM will be in January 2020.

Make sure you’re subscribed to our newsletter to be the first to hear about our events. Please contact Nadia Bonini to be added.

Noticeboard

The Hatsop Group Residency

Posted: 17 July 2019

The PSWG and the owners of Thomas Grove House are pleased to announce the launch of the Hartsop Group Residency.

Members of the PSWG can apply for a free group residency of up to two weeks in a historic farmhouse in the Lake District. You can read the full description and guidelines on the Hartsop Group Residency page.

Applicants will have to provide a brief proposal on how they intend to run the group residency, their objectives and why this residency would be useful to the participants and their work. You can apply here.

The deadline for applications is Monday 9 September 2019.

The poets of the Authors' Awards 2019

Posted: 04 July 2019

This year's winners

On Monday 17 June we celebrated the SoA's Authors Awards 2019 at the beautiful Southwark Cathedral. Hosted by poet Jackie Kay MBE, with an introduction by the President of the SoA, Sir Philip Pullman, 9 awards were presented to 32 writers. Among these, 12 poets were awarded.

Six poets received an Eric Gregory Award: Mary Jean Chan for A Hurry of English; Sophie Collins for Who is Mary Sue?; Se├ín Hewitt for Lantern; Dominic Leonard for This Mysterious; James Conor Patterson for Bandit Country; and Phoebe Stuckes for Platinum Blonde.

Four poets were awarded for the Cholmondeley Awards: Malika Booker, Fred D'Aiguiar, Allen Fisher and Jamie McKendrick.

Two poets won the Somerset Maugham Award: Raymond Antrobus, for The Perseverance (Penned in the Margins), and  Phoebe Power, for Shrines of Upper Austria (Carcanet).

From our awards of the past

We asked four Eric Gregory winners from last year about what's changed a year on from the celebrations. You can read their answers in our blog here.

An interview with Jackie Kay

"Writing is as much a confidence game as football"

After the Awards' Ceremony, we spoke to novelist and Scotland's national poet Jackie Kay about hosting the 2019 Society of Authors' Awards as a previous winner, and why poetry is in a state of rude health. Read the interview here

Our first live Twitter Q&A #AskAPoet

Posted: 03 June 2019

In order to celebrate our Poetry Week (5-9 June) and our shortlisted poets for the SoA Awards, we'll be hosting our very first live Twitter Q&A on Wednesday 5 June between 12-12.30 pm on making a living as a poet.

The Q&A will centre on making a living as a poet: is it possible? What avenues are there for getting your name out there? What routes into publishing? How do you cope with rejection or competition fees? What impact do literary awards have?

Join us by following Soc_of_Authors and ask questions about making a living as a poet, using the hashtag #AskAPoet.

Among others, you will hear from poets Dean Atta and Anthony Anaxagorou, this year's Cholmondeley Award judge Drew Milne, 2018 Eric Gregory Winners Jenna Clake and Zohar Atkins, and our PSWG Committee Members Katrina Naomi, Helen Shay and Jacqueline Saphra.

Tips on putting together a poetry collection

Posted: 20 May 2019

Poet, editor and translator Martha Sprackland has put together a list of 8 very useful tips on creating your first poetry collection or pamphlet.

'First of all, reduce everything you already have to raw material. Break down the barriers between the ‘finished’ and the ‘unfinished’.'

You can read it on the Sunday Times' Young Writer of the Year Award blog.

NEW: Q&A with Hannah Silva

Posted: 25 May 2018

The SoA's Scriptwriters Group have posted an interesting Q&A with writer and sound-poet Hannah Silva, which you can read on their webpage: https://www.societyofauthors.org/Groups/Scriptwriters

 

Race and poetry reviewing

Posted: 22 May 2018

An interesting article from The Bookseller by Sandeep Parmar, one of the founders of the Ledbury Emerging Critics Programme.

Parmar argues that it is not enough to simply publish poets of colour -- 'a real and meaningful shift in cultural value must come with critics whose first loyalty is to the work at hand, to reading it knowledgeably and with an awareness of the structural power within which works of literature are produced and received.'

Competition advice

Posted: 10 April 2018

Poet Robin Houghton has comprised a useful list of tips for anyone who is unsure about entering a poetry competition.

The Poetry Society also recommends this lists of resources from Winning Writers about how to tell if a poetry competition is reputable or not.

Feel free to contact the SoA for advice about the terms and conditions of any poetry competitions.

Lunar Poetry Podcasts

Posted: 10 April 2018

Lunar Poetry Podcasts are a series of discussions, interviews and live recordings with poets in the UK and further afield, now available to the public for download.

How to say no to working for free - Kate Fox

Posted: 29 March 2018

Member Kate Fox has shared her email response to events organisers asking poets to work for free. 

This is an example of an invitation she has received:

Hi Kate,

Just thought I’d drop you a line to see if you’d be interested in performing at X, one of X's liveliest spoken word nights.

We regularly get crowds of 70 and would be happy to cover your expenses - including drinks :)

We’d be more than happy to give you a 15-20 minute slot. We’re based at X.

Let me know if you’re interested!

Cheers,

X

And this is how she suggests politely declining:

Hi X,

Thanks for the offer of a gig. Would love to be on at your night.

I make a living as a poet so this isn’t something I’d be able to do just for expenses.

I’m also a member of a union (the Society of Authors) and am conscious of not accepting gigs that reinforce the idea that poets generally work for free. I’d love a broader range of people to be able to work as poets, and offering fees to professional artists is something that can help that.

I don’t drink before gigs either so offering to buy my drinks isn’t usually much of an incentive (though a bottle of water on stage is always appreciated!).

Very best

Kate

The post has been shared on Paula Varjack's Show Me The Money tumblr, which collects various articles and internet posts that may be of interest to artists trying to make money in hard times.  

Working with Schools & Tax and Expenses

Posted: 11 October 2017

Making a Living as a Poet (September 2017)

We had a stall at the Poetry Book Fair all day on Saturday 30 September, and ran a discussion in the afternoon, chaired by committee member Sarah Hesketh talking to Rachel Long and Richard O'Brien.

The talk received a nice, thorough report in Write Out Loud

We found that two issues were of particular concern to members of the audience.

The first was 'working with schools'. The SoA has a number of free guides to help any poets visiting schools: A Guide for Authors Visiting Schools and Libraries, A Guide for Schools Organising an Author Visit and Guidance on Fees for Author School Visits. These can all be found in the Do It Yourself section of our Guides and Articles page

Public Liability Insurance is often a requirement for authors running workshops. SoA members can buy coverage for only £23 - find out more

The poet Luke Wright has published a useful template on his website at www.lukewright.co.uk/education-work

Learn from two different approaches to working with schools and children, by the poets Brian Moses and Rachel McCarthy. 

The Poetry Society also have a huge amount of resources to help you plan lessons, arrange payment details with schools, and so on. Visit poetrysociety.org.uk/education

PSWG members who write for children might also be interested in joining the SoA's Children's Writers and Illustrators Group

The second was 'tax and expenses'. The accountancy firm H W Fisher produce a free guide for authors and freelance journalists, available on our Guides and Articles page in the Business, Tax and Accountancy section. It includes a list of allowable professional expenses. Did you know your Society of Authors membership subscription is tax-deductible?

Have a look at our Authors' Expenses Checklist for more information. 

Making a Living as a Poet (March 2017)

Posted: 17 March 2017

The second event in our Making a Living series was held in association with StAnza Festival. Ken Cockburn chaired a conversation with Harry Giles and Sarah Hesketh. 

Read a post about the talk by the festival's in-house blogger, Katie Hale, here

Making a Living as a Poet (October 2016)

Posted: 13 November 2016

Read all about the first event in the PSWG series on Making a Living as a Poet, with Julia Bird, Tom Chivers and Tamar Yoseloff. 

Read Helen Shay's write-up here.

Read Notes here.

Interview with Kate Fox and Tamar Yoseloff

Posted: 10 October 2016

Read our interview from September 2015 with stand up poet Kate Fox and group Chair Tamar Yoseloff:

The Value of Poetry with Kate Fox and Tamar Yoseloff