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Patience Agbabi

Patience Agbabi

On Wednesday the 10th February, the highly-respected poet, Patience Agbabi, spoke to an extremely engaged audience in the Coffee Shop from 4 until 4-45pm. Listeners were fortunate enough to hear Patience recite six of her poems flawlessly: most of these were from her 2014 collection, ‘Telling Tales’, inspired by ‘The Canterbury Tales’, by Geoffrey Chaucer.

 

Each poem that Patience recited had a different theme, often linked to one of Chaucer’s original characters, which she had tried to connect herself to in some way. Before reciting certain poems, she read the biographies of the people that the poems were about – for example, the Wife of Bath - which gave us a base knowledge of what the poem was going to be about and its influences.

 

Patience also put on certain accents when reciting certain poems. Her second piece, ‘Flats and Sharps’, was recited with the accent of a 21 year-old black man’s voice, now dead. Another of the accents she used was that of a Nigerian woman, which is where Patience is originally from. She used this accent to recite ‘What Women Like Best’ – her brilliant take on Chaucer’s ‘Wife of Bath’s Tale’: a poem about the Nigerian woman’s complicated life, part of which being her five, now dead, husbands.

A particularly memorable recital was Patience’s ‘Unfinished Business’: a poem set in Gravesend on the River Thames, where she lives. This poem was particularly dark. Patience’s posture conveyed this very vividly; hardly moving at all whilst reciting this poem. When she had finished reciting, she said, “it is absolute hell to perform (this poem) every time, and you can now see why.”

A request for an ‘encore’ was granted, with the declaiming of some of Miller’s rather raunchy work: ‘The Kiss’, based on Chaucer’s ‘Miller’s Tale’. This was indeed the first time she had ever read this particular poem in a school. It concluded the wonderful address, prompting a great deal of laughter and clapping.

Report by Alexander Milne, H Social 6.1

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