In Protest: new poetry anthology explores human rights and social justice

Wednesday 02 October 2013

 150 Poems for Human Rights Poets from around the world explore themes of human rights and social justice in a unique collaboration between the Human Rights Consortium and the Institute of English Studies (both School of Advanced Study, University of London), and London-based poetry collective the Keats House Poets.

In Protest: 150 Poems for Human Rights is an ambitious new publication aiming to bring together the fields of human rights research and literature in an innovative way. Selected from over 600 poems submitted by established and emerging poets, it provides a rare international insight into issues ranging from the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the Hola massacre and indigenous peoples' rights to the current war in Syria.

All the poems received were anonymised and the final 150 chosen include works from jailed Colombian human rights activist David Ravelo and acclaimed UK poets Carol Anne Duffy, Ruth Padel, Moniza Alvi and Douglas Dunn. Campaigner and philanthropist Sigrid Rausing, who wrote the afterword for the anthology, said:  ‘Poetry brings tiny details to life, and in a world where human rights is mostly about reports and abstractions, where real life and real details are lost, poetry can still make us see and feel.’

Co-edited by Helle Abelvik-Lawson (Human Rights Consortium), Laila Sumpton and Anthony Hett (both Keats House Poets), the 251 pages make up a body of contemporary works that is truly outstanding for its exploration of human rights. The poets come from a variety of backgrounds from more than 16 countries.

Divided into 13 themes – Expression, History, Land, Exile, War, Children, Sentenced, Slavery, Women, Regimes, Workers, Unequal, and Protest – the poems vary in style from compelling personal stories to reflections on contemporary events experienced via the evening news. With the forthcoming centenary of the First World War, this anthology also proves vital reading for an insight into contemporary war poetry, covering conflicts ranging from the Spanish Civil War to Syria.

‘This book has validated my suspicion that there is space and enthusiasm for literary creativity in human rights,’ said Helle Abelvik-Lawson. ‘Reading and writing poetry is a very therapeutic way to process some of the darker aspects of humanity. That said, it’s not all doom and gloom – there are some very empowering, fun and funny poems in this book. The feeling of solidarity is palpable, and I feel very privileged to have been able to read so many incredible poems. Like any good anthology, each poem offers something unique, telling a different story about the human experience.’

The editors, together with a number of poets, will speak at an event marking the UK launch of In Protest: 150 Poems for Human Rights (paperback) at the Bloomsbury Festival finale in Senate House, University of London on 20 October at 18:00. Discounted copies will be available. A series of events connected to the anthology are planned throughout 2013-14.

The publication and launch is supported by Spread the Word, London’s writer development agency, which also sponsored prizes for selected poets.

For further information please contact Chloe Pieters, the Human Rights Consortium, School of Advanced Study, University of London at or on +44 (0)20 7862 8853.

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Notes for Editors:

1. The Human Rights Consortium, founded in 2009, brings together the multidisciplinary expertise in human rights found in several institutes of the School of Advanced Study, as well as collaborating with individuals and organisations with an interest in the subject. The main aim of the Consortium is to facilitate, promote and disseminate academic and policy work on human rights by holding conferences and seminars, hosting visiting fellows, coordinating the publication of high quality work in the field, and establishing a network of human rights researchers, policy-makers and practitioners across the UK and internationally, with a view to collaborating on a range of activities.

2. The Institute of English Studies, founded in 1999 out of the Centre for English Studies, is an internationally renowned research centre, dedicated to promoting advanced study and research in English studies in the wider national and international academic community. It provides a centre for excellence in English language, literature, palaeography and the history of the book.  Its activities include facilitating academic discussion and the exchange of ideas through its comprehensive events programme, hosting major collaborative research projects, providing essential research training in book history and palaeography, and facilitating scholarly communities in all areas of English studies. The Institute of English Studies is a member institute of the School of Advanced Study, University of London. 

3. The School of Advanced Study, University of London is the UK’s national centre for the facilitation and promotion of research in the humanities and social sciences. The School brings together the specialised scholarship and resources of ten prestigious research institutes to offer academic opportunities, facilities and stimulation across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. The member institutes of the School are the Institutes of Advanced Legal Studies, Classical Studies, Commonwealth Studies, English Studies, Germanic & Romance Studies, Historical Research, Musical Research, Philosophy, Study of the Americas, and the Warburg Institute.

4. Anthony Hett is a London-based poet from North Wales with an MA in Creative Writing (Plays & Screenplays) from City University London. A member of the Keats House Poets, Anthony has run workshops and performed his Spoken Word Poetry throughout England & Wales. He is currently working on a one-man play and his first full collection of poetry.

5. Laila Sumpton is a member of the Keats House Poets and also a graduate of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies’ MA in Understanding and Securing Human Rights. She works both in the NGO sector for Plan UK and as a poet, running poetry workshops and events at museums and festivals across the UK and writing human rights themed poetry.

6. The Keats House Poets, established in 2010, are a London-based poetry collective consisting of eight poets who are supported by the Keats House Museum in Hampstead. Two of these poets, Anthony Hett and Laila Sumpton, have been working with School of Advanced Study’s Human Rights Consortium staff for over a year to develop the Human Rights Poetry Project. This has included designing and running events that explore human rights and poetry at the Bloomsbury 2012 and 2013 festivals, and the publication of In Protest: 150 Poems for Human Rights.


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