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.

2019 Poetry and Spoken Word AGM

Our next Annual General Meeting will be on 31 January 2019. More details to follow – make sure you’re subscribed to our newsletter to be the first to hear about it. Please contact Nadia Bonini to be added.


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!



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


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