Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Book a sneak preview of Agbabi's reworking of Chaucer

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Award-winning poet, performer, and Creative Writing Fellow for Oxford Brookes University’s MA Creative Writing, Patience Agbabi, is set to release a 21st Century remix of Chaucer’s most famous work, The Canterbury Tales. Agbabi’s retelling of each of the pilgrims’ stories, entitled Telling Tales, will be published by Canongate in April, but visitors to the Oxford Literary Festival can get a sneak preview as Patience will be performing and discussing her latest major work with comedian, novelist and winner of Celebrity Mastermind (Specialist subject: The Canterbury Tales), Mark Watson.The event will take place at 6pm on Wednesday 26 March. Book online here. Agbabi's Telling Tales retells each of Chaucer's pilgrims' stories, with new takes on the characters: a ladette Miller, a hoodie Canon's Yeoman, a rapping Parson and a self-help guru Pardoner. Published by Canongate, it has attracted high praise from the likes of Simon Armitage, Andrew Motion and George Szirtes, who said that if it was not in the running for a major prize this year "it will be proof the world has grown very dull indeed". Agbabi’s debut poetry collection R.A.W. won her the 1997 Excelle Literary Award and she is known for both her written poetry and her performance work. Her second poetry collection, Transformatrix, saw her create a Nigerian Wife of Bath who "went down a storm in performance", she said, and, when she was made Canterbury laureate for 18 months from 2009 to 2010, she "saw this as a sign to do more tales". Initially quite intimidated to take on Chaucer, Agbabi says: “I was too reverent, scared to put a foot out of line. But then a year into the project I got a second wind and let creativity take over. Whenever I got stuck I reread the original text and imagined Chaucer winking at me, saying, go girl." Agbabi's editor at Canongate, Francis Bickmore, says the author's background as a performance poet as well as a "page" poet meant she was "ideally placed to write work that, like the Canterbury tales, works as well read aloud as it does read to oneself".