Inspiring poems by female poets

15 November 2016

Inspiring poems from some of our favourite women writers, from Carol Ann Duffy to Sylvia Plath.

Still I Rise’ by Maya Angelou

The incredibly prolific and inspiring American poet, author, actress, civil-rights activist, producer and director passed away in 2014, leaving behind a huge volume of work celebrating black beauty, the strength of women, and the human spirit.

‘You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.’

Read ‘Still I Rise’


'Differences of Opinion' by Wendy Cope

A true national treasure and one of Britain's most accessible and beloved poets, Wendy Cope’s poetry is perhaps best known for its humour. There is, however, a feminist element to her poetry and a political engagement that often goes unrecognised.  

'The planet goes on being round' 

Read 'Differences of Opinion'


‘Little Red-Cap’ by Carol Ann Duffy

Award-winning Scottish poet, Carol Ann Duffy, is the first woman and the first openly gay poet to be appointed Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom. While her poetry often has a strong feminist edge, The World’s Wife in particular is a feminist classic, which gives voice to the wives of famous historical and fictional heroes

‘Out of the forest I come with my flowers, singing, all alone.’

Read ‘Little Red-Cap’


‘Fiere’ by Jackie Kay

Jackie Kay’s poetry collection Fiere is the story of the search for her Nigerian and Highland birth parents and a deep enquiry into all forms of human friendship. Infused with both Scots and Igbo speech, it is also a fascinating account of the formation of a self-identity.

‘Oor hair it micht be silver noo,
oor walk a wee bit doddery,
but we’ve had a whirl and a blast, girl,
thru the cauld blast winter, thru spring, summer.’

Read ‘Fiere’


'What Kind of Times Are These' by Adrienne Rich 

One of America’s foremost public intellectuals. Widely read and hugely influential, Rich’s career spanned seven decades. A lesbian and a radical feminist, Rich devoted her life’s work to investigating the relationship between poetry and politics. 

'Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it’s necessary
to talk about trees.'

Read 'What Kind of Times Are These'


'The woman the boy became' by Kate Tempest

An award-winning rapper, poet, author and playwright, Kate Tempest made a name for herself through her intense and urgent live performances. Her poetry holds up a mirror to contemporary life in a voice like no other. 

‘You could tell she wasn’t from
The same place as the rest,
Born strong.
Born wrong.’

Listen to Kate reading 'The woman the boy became'


‘Interview’ by Dorothy Parker

A celebrated poet, short story writer, critic, and an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, Dorothy Parker’s biting wit made her a legend, but it also masked her struggle with depression. Her poetry exposes both the dazzle and the darkness of the decadent 1920s and 1930s in New York.

‘The ladies men admire, I’ve heard,
Would shudder at a wicked word.’

Read ‘Interview’


'Mathematics' by Holly McNish

Wise, rude, sharp Holly McNish's poetry encompasses her personal experiences from girlhood to motherhood and beyond. Her YouTube performances are widely shared online and she's been described as the most important spoken-word artist of her generation.

'And when I meet these paper claims
That one of every new that came
Takes away ones daily wage
I desperately want to scream
'Your maths is stuck in primary''

Watch Holly reading 'Mathematics'


‘Lady Lazarus’ by Sylvia Plath

Despite only publishing one collection of poems in her lifetime, Sylvia Plath is one of the defining voices in twentieth-century poetry.

‘Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.’

Read ‘Lady Lazarus’


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