10 Incredible Women Performance Poets You Will Love

5th Mar 2014

In the countdown to International Women's Day, we're featuring incredible, incendiary and awe-inducing poetry performances from a few of our favourite spoken word artists.

Powerful, moving, funny and fierce, we defy you to watch these videos and not be spellbound by these women performance poets’ perfect energy, insight and dynamic delivery…

Katie Makkai

Veteran poetry slammer Katie Makkai came to public attention for her performance of Pretty at the 2002 National Poetry Slam. A blistering tirade against impossible beauty standards and the way our culture creates and then capitalises on women’s physical insecurities, it’s as powerful and essential now as it was over a decade ago.

Denice Frohman & Ms. Wise

Both brilliantly talented in their own right, Ms. Wise and Denice Frohman get a combined entry for their joint poem Bodies, a passionate, powerful performance slamming the way women’s bodies are sexualised, objectified and dehumanised. For more, check out Frohman’s Dear Straight People, and Ms. Wise’s Picture Perfect.

Sarah Kay

Founder and co-director of the fantastic Project VOICE, there’s a lot of reasons to love Sarah Kay, and her beautiful poem If I Should Have a Daughter is definitely one of them. (Not to mention she’s been performing for over a decade and she’s only in her mid-20s. Jealous yet?) Her full TED talk, from which the above performance is excerpted, is also available online.

Lauren Zuniga

If you aren’t already in love with internationally touring poet and activist Lauren Zuniga, chances are you will be after watching her breathtaking delivery of her poem Girl: Exploded, which explores the pressures on women today in our consumerist culture, what feminism means to her, and much more besides. Just watch it and see.

Franny Choi

In her dynamically-delivered poem POP! Goes Korea! Korean-American writer and performer Franny Choi chronicles aspects of contemporary Korean pop culture, contrasting with traditional elements now being eroded. Her first full-length poetry collection comes out this year, and we already can’t wait.

Catalina Ferro

Manifesto by Catalina Ferro is guaranteed to give you goosebumps. Watch it and you’ll understand what we mean. Delivered with palpable energy, sincerity, force and ferocity, it’s a potent and emotive account of privilege, circumstance, and what fighting for revolution really means.

Rachel Rostad

Rachel Rostad hit online headlines last year when her awardwinning poem, To J.K. Rowling, from Cho Chang, went viral. A critical analysis of racial stereotyping in the Harry Potter series and wider pop culture, she discussed the issue further in this video response to criticism she received in the aftermath.

Dawn Saylor

Dawn Saylor has captianed three slam poetry teams all the way to the National Championships, and has performed on HBO series Def Poetry. Her poem When I Was 14 is a heartbreakingly brave and confessional account of young women’s developing sexualities, and how they are all too often exploited.

Staceyann Chin

Yeah, this extract of amazing author and activist Staceyann Chin reading from her memoir The Other Side of Paradise is five times as long as any of the others, but it’s worth it. We promise. Watch ’til the end. Be prepared to laugh. And maybe also cry. Then say it with me: “That’s called strength, motherfucker…”

For more incredible performances from a diverse range of amazing spoken word artists, check out the work of organisations Project VOICE, Button Poetry and Generation Progress, or let us know your recommendations in the comments.

Which other women performance poets would you add to our list?

(Image via eschipul)


  • Dan Holloway says:

    Greast list – plenty to add from the amazing UK scene
    Hollie McNish
    Vanessa Kisuule
    Anna Freeman
    Kate Tempest
    Lucy Ayrton
    Tina Sederholm
    Michelle Madsen

  • Hannah Beatrice says:

    Looking forward to checking these all out! I’d also add Hollie McNish. Great to meet you today btw, Jane!

  • Alexis Somerville says:

    Yes! Thanks for a brilliant list.

  • Abbie Salter says:

    Everyone beat me to it with Holly McNish but she is INCREDIBLE. Saw her at Bang Said the Gun recently. This is one of my faves and it was on Poetry Please last week

  • Rosie says:

    all brilliant. Are you going to attend the LGF International womens weekend event ‘Sugar and Spice’ there is a poetry reading sunday from 12.30 tp 4pm. Good weekends events for good women!

    • Jane Bradley says:

      Sounds good Rosie – we have two events of our own on the Saturday but hoping to make it on the Sunday!