Words That Burn poets
Here is our directory of inspiring poets and their incredible poems that feature in Words That Burn in the classroom.
Adrian Mitchell started his career as a journalist and became a prominent left-wing anti bombing poet. His most famous poems include Tell me lies about Vietnam and Human Beings. The later was chosen in 2005 by national poll to be launched into space. You can study his poem Back in the Playground Blues within the session Burn 6: dignity
AMYRA is a musician, playwright, author and activist. She cleverly fuses music and poetry through powerful performances. You can access her poems Black/White and Darling within the session Burn 8: power; as well as Right To Be through the session Burn 10: words that burn.
Anthony Anaxagorou is an award-winning poet, publisher, fiction writer, essayist, and poetry educator. He has already published nine volumes of poetry, is the founder of Outspoken London, and his new book Heterogeneous is now out. Access his poem Serve and Protect within the session Burn 7: speak up and The Blood though session Burn 5: witness
Bethany Rose is a spoken word poet and an educator. She writes on a variety of subjects such as gender, loss, philosophy, astrophysics, sexuality, politics and our relationship with the body. You can watch her make a difference in a minute for women’s rights by performing her poem One Hundred Years Ago and read the poem here.
Dean Atta is a published poet and one of The Independent’s top 100 most influential LGBT people in the UK. His new novel The Black Flamingo is now available for sale. Read his take on I Come From and watch him performing How to be a Poet in the session Burn 2: being me
Deanna Rodger is an award-winning writer, performer and facilitator. She won the UK Poetry Slam at the age of 18 and teaches Writing Poetry for Performance with Benjamin Zephaniah at Brunel University. You can access her poem Being British in the session Burn 6: dignity. Watch her take on the make a difference in a minute challenge by performing I am the One Who Would Save and read the poem here.
Dylan Thomas was a popular Welsh poet, writer and broadcaster for the BBC. He was famous for his lyrical and emotional poetry which often focussed on life, his Welsh heritage, death and innocence. You can access Dylan’s poem Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night in the session Burn 8: power.
Elsa Wiezell was an internationally acclaimed Paraguayan poet, painter and teacher. In her lifetime, Wiezell founded several institutions including the Belle Arts School and the Modern Art Museum in Paraguay. She was also Editor in Chief of The Feminist Journal. You can check out her striking poem, Encounter with Freedom in the session Burn 1: being heard
Emtithal Mahmoud is a Sudanese-American poet, activist, and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. She won the 2015 Individual Poetry Slam Championship and has been named in BBC’s 100 Women list of ‘the most inspirational women across the world in 2015’. Mahmoud’s work focusses on bringing awareness to the ongoing violence and refugee crisis in Darfur. You can see her poignant poems Head Over Heels and You Have a Big Imagination as part of the session Burn 5: witness.
Grace Nichols is a Guyanese British poet and writer. She combines her experiences of Guyana and Britain to offer a unique and lively social critique on women’s rights and immigration, inspired by Caribbean culture and oral tradition. You can check out Nichols’ poem, Sally Size Zero in the session Burn 1: being heard.
Hollie McNish is a British poet and author. In 2016, she won the Ted Hughes Award for New Work for her poetry collection Nobody Told Me. Her work, including a spoken word album entitled Versus (2014), is conversational and chaotic, and reflects on intimate aspects of her life. You can find her poem, Foreign in the session Burn 6: dignity.
Imtiaz Dharker is a poet, artist and documentary film maker. Her poetry has earned her numerous awards, including the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2014, and serves as a delicate but powerful exploration of identity and social awareness. You can catch her poem The Right Word in the session Burn 9: Respect.
Inja is a writer, poet, MC and rapper. Inja’s positive work tackles an array of issues from immigration to women’s rights and collaborates with anything from drum and base to jazz music. You can check out his engaging poem, Freedom here in the session Burn 8: Power, as well as Your Moment in the session Burn 10: Words that Burn.
Jackie Kay is an award-winning Scottish author, poet and a Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University. Since 2016, Kay has adopted the position of Scots Makar, the national poet of Scotland. Her work concentrates on issues of identity, gender, race and sexuality. You can see her poem Glasgow Snow here in the session Burn 6: dignity.
Jay Hulme is a transgender performance poet, speaker and educator. In 2015, Jay won SLAMbassadors and has since gone on to be featured in the 2017 Nationwide Building Society ‘voices’ campaign. Jay is also an Inclusion Ambassador for Inclusive Minds and uses his platform to advocate for trans rights and diversity in literature and the media. You can check out Jay’s poem I Am A Man in the session Burn 6: dignity.
Jim Ferris is an American Disability Studies Professor, author and performance poet. Ferris’ first collection, The Hospital Poems (2004), won the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award and channels his emotional experience with the health system and his own disability. His work Poems with Disabilities can be accessed here in Burn 6: dignity.
John Agard is a Guyanese British children’s writer, poet and playwright. Often playful and comic, Agard’s poetry disrupts cultural discrimination, racial stereotyping and social critique through the lens of Caribbean lyric. His achievements include the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, which he was awarded in 2012. You can check out his poem, Half-caste, here in the session Burn 9: respect.
Joseph Coelho is a performance poet, playwright and co-founder of the Word Pepper Theatre Company. Coelho’s work is inspired by his childhood in Roehampton and defined by his vitality and love of wordplay. You can see his poem Gingerbread Man in the session Burn 1: being heard.
Keith Jarrett is an award-winning spoken word poet and author. Jarrett’s poetry targets issues of identity, sexuality and race, while his play Safest Spot in Town was featured on BBC Four as part of the 2017 Queen Series. You can find his subversive poem, A Gay Poem, in the session Burn 6: dignity. If you would like to know about Keith watch this video on our YouTube channel.
Langston Hughes was an American poet, playwright, author, columnist, social activist and a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance movement. Hughes’ poetry sought to reflect a transparent experience of working-class black lives, taking his audience on an immersive journey through the culture, music, language and tradition of the people. You can access his poem, I Dream a World, in the session Burn 4: Change.
Luke Wright is a performance poet, playwright, broadcaster and publisher. He is the co-founder of the Aisle16 poetry collective as well as Nasty Little Press publishing house. His work has a satiric, witty tone and focusses on social and political issues. You can watch Luke perform his poem, Power as part of the Make a Difference in A Minute challenge here. If you would like to know about Luke watch this video on our YouTube channel.
Martin Niemöller was a renowned German theologian and Protestant pastor who is known for his outspoken opposition to the Nazi regime. His poem ‘First They Came’ was part of a speech given in 1946 as a post-war confession that still resonates today, targeting themes of persecution, passivity and repentance in the aftermath of Hitler. You can read First They Came here in the sessions Burn 1: being heard and Burn 3: freedom.
Michael R Burch is an American poet, columnist and Editor-in-Chief of The Hyper Texts. His work has featured in countless literary journals, TIME, USA Today, Writer’s Digest, BBC Radio 3 and more and centres around social injustices, addressing the Holocaust, Nakba, Darfur, Hiroshima, the Trail of Tears and Haiti. You can find his poem, First They Came For The Muslims, a twist on Niemöller’s work, here in the session Burn 3: freedom.
Michael Rosen began his career as a trainee at the BBC and is now an established children’s writer, playwright and poet. He is also a regular writer for The Guardian. From 2007-2009 Rosen was the British Children’s Laureate and was an early advocate for children’s access to poetry. You can see his poem, Leaving Home here in the session Burn 4: Change.
Oscar Wilde was a highly acclaimed Irish poet, author and playwright. Wilde was a figurehead for the controversial aesthetic movement in the late 19th Century. He is most well-known for his Faustian novel, A Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), and his comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). His moving poem, Apologia can be found here in the session Burn 1: being heard.
Patrick Cash is a London-based writer, editor, playwright and spoken word poet. His work explores the social challenges of the LGBTQ+ community and his plays, including The Chemsex Monologues and Pink Orchids (The HIV Monologues), are highly acclaimed, with the former winning the Polari Prize in 2017. His poem, What Scares You is featured in the session Burn 10: words that burn where Patrick takes part in our Make A Difference in A Minute Challenge. You can also read his blog entry about his new book Anti-Hate Anthology.
Pat Parker was an African-American poet, artist and activist. As a founding member of the Black Women’s Revolutionary Council and the Women’s Press Collective, Parker’s poetry naturally engages in a sharp social commentary, radical politics and personal experience in domestic violence, identity and discrimination. You can catch her poem, My Lover Is a Woman, in the session Burn 1: being heard.
Rachel Rooney is a teacher and children’s poet. She won the CLPE award for her first poetry collection, The Language of A Cat, and dedicates her time to encouraging young people to explore poetry and writing by performing at festivals and hosting regular school workshops. Her poem Russian Doll can be accessed as part of the session Burn 1: being heard.
Raymond Antrobus is a deaf British-Jamaican spoken-word artist, poet, educator and editor. His work, including the collections To Sweeten Bitter and The Perseverance, explores the hidden depths of identity, coming to terms with the death of Antrobus’ father and his own deafness. You can find his poem, Dear Hearing World, in the session Burn 7: speak up. If you would like to find out more about Raymond watch his top tips video on our YouTube channel.
Sabrina Mahfouz is a British-Egyptian performer, poet, playwright and writer. She is the founder and co-founder of Great Wash Workshops and the Critics of Colour Collective. In 2018 she received the King’s Alumni Arts & Culture Award for inspiring change in the industry. Her work tackles issues such as race, heritage, identity, religion, gender and immigration. You can see Sabrina’s Make A Difference In A Minute with her poem Solidarity Poem (for all those defending Human Rights) in the session Burn 10: words that burn.
Sarah Crossan is an author, poet, and currently Ireland’s Children’s Literature Laureate, or Laureate na nÓg. Renowned for her verse novels, Crossan is dedicating her term as Laureate to encouraging young people to express themselves through poetry. You can check out her own poem Cutbacks here in Burn 1: being heard, Dwellings as part of the session Burn 6: dignity and Everyone Who Cares in the session Burn 10: words that burn.
Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan is a British writer, speaker and spoken-word poet whose work targets issues surrounding Islamophobia, gender and race. Her viral poem This is not a Humanising Poem won London’s Roundhouse Poetry Slam at The Last Word Festival in 2017. Since then, Manzoor-Khan has featured in The Guardian, Middle East Eye and on BBC Radio 4. You can experience her poem This is Not a Humanizing Poem as part of the session Burn 6: dignity.
Vanessa Kisuule is a Bristol-based performance poet and writer. She has won numerous Slam championships and has been named the Bristol City Poet 2018-2020. Kisuule has worked with the Southbank Centre, RADA and Warner Music as well as being featured on BBC Radio 1, The Guardian and TEDx in Vienna. See her cutting edge poem Take Up Space in the session Burn 6: dignity.
Victoria Redel is an American author and poet of Egyptian, Polish, Russian, Romanian and Belgian heritage. She has published five fiction books and three poetry collections and in 2014 was presented with the Guggenheim Fellowship for Fiction for her collection of stories, Make Me Do Things. You can find her poem, Bedecked, in the session Burn 6: dignity.
Walt Whitman was an influential American poet and journalist who, besides Emily Dickinson, is considered by many as America’s most historically important poet. His most notable and controversial publication, Leaves of Grass, praised democracy and controversially celebrated love, humanity and the natural world. You can find his poem Song of Myself in the session Burn 1: being heard and Burn 2: being me.
Yala Korwin was a poet, writer, artist, librarian, teacher and Holocaust survivor. Her collection of poems To Tell the Story: Poems of the Holocaust was published by the Holocaust library and in numerous journals thereafter, even being set to classical music. Korwin wished to be remembered for her poem The Little Boy With His Hands Up, which you can find in the session Burn 3: freedom.
Yrsa Daley-Ward is a spoken-word poet, model, actress, writer and LGBTQ activist of mixed West Indian and West African heritage. Her poetry shines a spotlight on identity and race, gender and mental health and in 2019 she won the PEN/Ackerley Prize for her book, The Terrible. You can find Yrsa’s Make a Difference in A Minute poem And That's The Thing About Ignorance in the session Burn 10: words that burn.
Copyrights and credits
Copyrights and credits for poems and film clips used are added at the end of each session. This resource has been produced by Amnesty International UK in cooperation with the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education. We would like to thank Cheltenham Festivals and Barnwood Park Arts College, Cleeve School, Gloucestershire Hospital Education Service and Severn Vale School for piloting this resource, and The Poetry Hour for their support.