"This project grew out of a conversation we had in our kitchen one evening in Michaelmas 2012. As English students, we were very used to reading poetry on the page, but we wanted to create a resource that would allow people to engage with poetry as a spoken form – one that was more accessible.
We were also aware of the proportionally small number of female poets taught as part of the canon, and how few resources existed online, specifically audio versions of their poems. With Lucy Cavendish College approaching its fiftieth anniversary, we also wanted to celebrate the individual men and women of the college. Their voices, which represent the diversity of the college community, are matched by the diversity of the group of poems we chose – written by women across 500 years of literature in English.
To limit what could otherwise have been an endless selection process, we very quickly decided to record fifty poems by fifty female poets, one for each year of Lucy Cavendish College. The process of choosing the poems was long, sometimes frustrating, but also a lot of fun. Although we restricted ourselves to poems written in English, we tried to hard to make the collection representative. We took recommendations from other students, and included some poems that will be instantly familiar, but also wanted to find some unusual and unfamiliar poems. The poems cover a wide range of themes: sex, death, nature, faith, family life, race, gender, and, sometimes, men (although not as often as you might think).
We know that there are some people missing from this list who you might expect to find – most often this was because it was difficult to obtain permission to include them. But for every person whose poem you might miss, we hope you discover a new poet whose work you enjoy. We found so many hidden gems, poets whose poems we all now consider to be personal favourites. We also took the opportunity to include poems written by three students, and by a staff member. We hope you enjoy the selection as much as we do. We would like to take this opportunity to thank those people who kindly gave their permission to allow us to use their work on the site. We’d also like to thank the college for their support, and all the readers, both staff and students, who took time to record for us."
Kassi Chalk, Charlotte Quinney & Hannah Schühle-Lewis