Patience Agbabi was born in 1965 in London to Nigerian parents. Although she was fostered out with a white family from a young age, she maintained contact with her birth parents as she grew up. At the age of 12, she moved to Colwyn Bay in North Wales with her adoptive parents, to run a Bed and Breakfast hotel in the seaside resort. Agbabi read English Language and Literature at Pembroke College, Oxford; and in 2002 she graduated from the MA Creative Writing at the University of Sussex. She currently lives in Gravesend, Kent.
Agbabi has published four books of poetry to date as well as publishing her work in journals an anthologies such as Bittersweet: Contemporary Black Women's Poetry (ed. Karen McCarthy, 1998, The Women’s Press); IC3: The Penguin Book of New Black Writing in Britain (eds. Courttia Newland and Kadija Sesay, 2000) and Red: Contemporary Black British Poetry (eds. Kwame Dawes and Kadija Sesay, 2010, Peepal Tree). Her first book of poetry, R.A.W. (1995) won the 1997 Excelle Literary Award. Telling Tales (2015), Agbabi’s most recent book of poetry, is a re-telling of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales for a modern, multicultural Britain (as noted by Helen Cooper, Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English, University of Cambridge in the blurb for the book). This collection was shortlisted for the 2015 Ted Hughes Poetry Award. In 2017 Agbabi was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
As a performance poet, Agbabi tours extensively. She created the performance piece Fo(u)r Women with Adeola Agbebiyi and Dorothea Smartt , and between 1995 and 1998 she was a member of “Atomic Lip,” a poetry pop group (with Steve Tasane, Joelle Taylor and The Speech Painter). She frequently appears at literature festivals including the Edinburgh Book Festival, Ledbury Poetry Festival and Birmingham Literature Festival, as well as music festivals such as Glastonbury and Soho Jazz. She also tours abroad including work for The British Council such as the “Crossing Borders: New Writing from Africa” project.
Agbabi has taught creative writing at several universities: the University of Greenwich, the University of Wales, Cardiff, the University of Kent at Canterbury and Oxford Brookes University. She also facilitates workshops, most notoriously working as a poet-in-residence at the famous public school Eton, a post which attracted a lot of media attention. She is a popular poet for young adult audiences: in 1999 she was commissioned to write a poem for a poetry competition ran by the popular children’s TV show, Blue Peter. Her poem “Josephine Baker Finds Herself” is listed on the anthology for “Poetry By Heart,” a national competition for 14-18 year olds who have to learn and recite poems from memory. (HC & EB)
Agbabi, Patience. Bloodshot Monochrome. Edinburgh: Canongate Books, 2008.
—. “Genre: Gravesend Noir…” Telling Tales. https://patienceagbabi.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/genre-gravesend-noir/. Accessed 9 July 2020.
—. “Stories in Stanza’d English: A Cross-Cultural Canterbury Tales.” Literature Compass, vol. 15, no. 6, 2018, 1-8. Wiley, doi:10.1111/lic3.12455. Accessed 9 July 2020.
—. “Josephine Baker Finds Herself.” Poetry By Heart. n.d. 15 Jul. 2015.
—. R.A.W. London: Gecko Press, 1995.
—. "The Refugee's Tale." Beached Here at Random by Mysterious Forces: 50 Years of Poetry at the University of Kent. Edited by Ben Hickman and Janet E. Montefiore. University of Kent, 2015. 125-132.
—. "The Refugee's Tale." Refugee Tales. Edited by David Herd and Anna Pincus. Comma, 2016.
—. Telling Tales. Edinburgh: Canongate Books, 2015.
—. Transformatrix. Edinburgh: Canongate Books, 2000.
Agbebiyi, Adeola. “Voicing Identities, Reframing Difference(s): The Case of Fo(u)r Women. A Brief Commentary on the Text of Fo(u)r Women.” Languages of Theatre Shaped by Women, edited by Jane De Gay and Lizbeth Goodman, Bristol, Intellect, pp. 89-97.
Agbebiyi, Adeola, Patience Agbabi and Dorothea Smartt. "Fo(u)r Women.” Languages of Theatre Shaped by Women, edited by Jane De Gayand Lizbeth Goodman, Bristol, Intellect, pp. 99-123.
Barrington, Candace, and JonathanHsy.“Remediated Verse: Chaucer’s Tale of Melibee and Patience Agbabi’s ‘Unfinished Business.’"Postmedieval: A Journal of Medieval Cultural Studies, vol. 6, no. 2, 2015, pp. 136-145.
Coppola, Manuela."Queering Sonnets: Sexuality and Transnational Identity in the Poetry of Patience Agbabi." Women: A Cultural Review, vol. 26, no. 4, 2015, pp. 369-383.
—. “A Tale of Two Wives: The Transnational Poetry of Patience Agbabi and Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze.” Journal of Postcolonial Writing, vol. 52, no. 13, 2016, pp. 305-318. doi.org/10.1080/17449855.2015.1091373
Hena, Omaar. "Multi-ethnic British Poetries." The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary British and Irish Poetry, edited by Peter Robinson, Oxford UP, 2013, pp. 517-537.
Novak, Julia. Live Poetry: An Integrated Approach to Poetry in Performance. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2011.
—. “Transformatrix: Confused Cultural Identities in the Performance Poetry of Patience Agbabi”. Restless Travellers: Quests for Identity across European and American Time and Space, edited by Antonio José Miralles Pérez. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2011. 83-90.
Novak, Julia, and Pascal Fischer. "On the Interface between Page and Stage: Interview with Patience Agbabi" Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, vol. 64, no..3, 2016, pp. 353-363. doi:10.1515/zaa-2016-0033
Ramey, Lauri. “Performing Contemporary Poetics: The Art of SuAndi and Patience Agbabi”. Women: A Cultural Review. 2009, pp.310-322.
Stark, Lyndsey. “Telling Tales.” DURA, 28 Feb. 2017, dura-dundee.org.uk/2017/02/28/telling-tales/. Accessed 9 July 2020.
Thompson, Molly. "An Interview with Patience Agbabi." Write Black, Write British: From Post Colonial to Black British Literature, edited by Kadija Sesay, Hansib, 2005, pp. 147–64,
Tönnies, Merle, Joana Brüning and Andrea Sand. "The Duality of Page and Stage: Constructing Lyrical Voices in Contemporary British Poetry Written for Performance" Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, vol. 64, no. 3, 2016, pp. 301-320. doi:10.1515/zaa-2016-0030
Wójcik, Bartosz. “Cherishing Chaucer, Choosing Chuck D: Patience Agbabi and Cultural Traditions.” Lublin Studies in Modern Languages and Literature, vol. 33, 2009, pp. 78-90.