Poetry and politics are both deeply concerned with verbal persuasion and the art of rhetoric, but by existing outside the mainstream economic culture, poetry can also be a potent form of dissent. It has been said that poets by themselves can do little to save humanity, but that without them there would be little worth saving.

At this event, we bring together three fearless, subversive poets to explore the power of political poetry in the era of global terrorism, social media and fake news. In the turbulent climate of modern politics, is it more important than ever that poets are able to speak out and give voice to opinions otherwise unheard? And what is it like to write against the backdrop of growing nationalism and ever-increasing public anger?

Our panel, chaired by Boyd Tonkin, includes three award-winning poets, the inimitable Anthony Anaxagorou, Zeina Hashem Beck and Nick Toczek, who bring a wealth of experience on the front lines of poetry, protest and politics to this enlightening discussion of just how the written word can shape the world.

About The Speakers

Anthony Anaxagorou

Anthony Anaxagorou is a British-born Cypriot award-winning poet, fiction writer, essayist, publisher, and poetry educator. He has published nine volumes of poetry, a spoken-word EP, and a collection of short stories. He is the founder of Out-Spoken. GB.


Zeina Hashem Beck

Zeina Hashem Beck is the author of To Live in Autumn, winner of the 2013 Backwaters Prize; 3arabi Song, winner of the 2016 Rattle Chapbook Prize; and There Was and How Much There Was, a 2016 Laureate’s Choice, selected by Carol Ann Duffy. She won the 2016 May Sarton NH Poetry Prize for Louder than Hearts.

Nick Toczek

Nick Toczek is a writer and performer from Bradford. Throughout the 1970s and 80s he toured with bands and as a poet, and ran both music and poetry clubs in Yorkshire, becoming an integral part of the Ranting scene. Since the mid-90s Nick has been a best-selling children’s writer. He is also a professional close-up magician, a skilled puppeteer, a prolific print journalist and an experienced broadcaster.

Photo by Gaynor Toczek

About The Chair

Boyd Tonkin

Boyd Tonkin is an award-winning journalist who currently writes on literature and culture for The Financial Times, The Economist, Newsweek and The Spectator. He was previously Literary Editor and then Senior Writer at The Independent, where he re-founded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and judged the award for 15 years. He chaired the jury of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, and now serves as the prize’s Special Adviser.