Online Ongoing

“I’d look at my reading list each new term and wonder where all the great women were, where all the great Black and Asian writers were. I’d turn my reading list over in the hope that it was continued overleaf but no, we’d been excluded – again. I realised then that although I loved it, although I wanted to be part of it, literature systematically marginalised women and people of colour.” – Octavia Poetry Collective

Octavia Poetry Collective‘s Poetry from the Personal, is an invitation for English teachers at primary, secondary and beyond to re-think conventional understandings of poetry and build strategies for identifying all of ourselves in literature. It leads out of current discourse around migration, movement and identity, exploring the potential of poetry to address diverse personal histories.

The resource features a series of questions for critical discussion, activities for the classroom and a reading list for further study. On the reverse is a collective poem produced by Octavia, alongside a photograph by Amaal Said.

  • How can we encourage our students to write from the personal to create art that includes and reflects them; art which allows them to delve into themselves and find validation from and within their truths?
  • What can we do as educators to live by the tenet that every story and person is valid, and how can we make space for this within the classroom?
  • What are the benefits of a group/class/gathering of minds and ideas?
  • How can writing from personal experience help students find their own place within existing curriculum poems?
  • If English is not a first language, how can we promote a ‘third tongue’ within creative writing?

You can download a pdf version below or email [email protected] to request an A2 printed version that opens out to form a poster that can be displayed in your classroom.

Cracks in the Curriculum

Cracks in the Curriculum is a workshop series and publishing platform for teachers, which aims to bring artists and educators together to think about how to address pressing social issues in the classroom.

The Cracks in the Curriculum series explores key questions and themes that run through the Serpentine Education, Exhibition and Live programmes. The content for each resource emerges from workshops with artists, activists and educators.

Octavia Poetry Collective

Octavia is a poetry collective for women of colour led by Rachel Long and housed at Southbank Centre. Octavia was created so that women of colour could come together to read beyond the canon, write without fear of condemnation or exoticisation, share openly without censorship and support each other. There are seventeen members of Octavia, they are poets as well as educators, dancers and astrophysicists, making their collective voice zoetic and nuanced. Octavia have performed at Southbank Centre’s Women of the World and London Literature Festivals. They’ve featured in the Guardian and on the BBC World Service’s Cultural Frontline show. Octavia have run workshops at Oxford University and for Africa Writes.

Octavia are: Amaal Said, Sunayana Bhargava, Amina Jama, Belinda Zhawi, Zahrah Sheikh, Anjali Barot, Ankita Saxena, Josette Joseph, Rachel Long, Raheela Suleman, Rhonda Rhiannon, Tania Nwachukwu, Theresa Lola, Victoria-Anne Bulley, Sarah Lasoye, Virginia Joseph, Hibaq Osman and Anita Barton-Williams.


Image Credit: Octavia Poetry Collective: Poetry from the Personal, 2019. Cracks in the Curriculum, Serpentine Education. Design: In the shade of a tree. Photo: Mike Din.


Curated by:

Alex Thorp, Curator, Education

Ben Messih, Assistant Curator, Education


Design by:

In the shade of a tree


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