: Performance Poet
After graduating from Middlesex University and studying storytelling and performance at The London International School for Performing Arts, Zena has been a professional writer/performance poet, curator and creative project developer.
She is known as a renowned award winning UK based poet of Afr-Carib-British heritage, however
she is also a polyglot, at home with collaborating with musicians, choreographers, and visual artists.
The list of acclaimed artists she has worked with include Theaster Gates, Ackroyd and Harvey and Akram Khan.
Zena was was shortlisted for the Forward Prizes for Best Single Poem Performed for 2023.
As part of her writing practice, Zena often uses photography and experimental sketching and film as tools to explore and enhance her writing, and since 2005 she has been exploring movement and the concept of ‘the body is the ear’. Her writing and performance pedagogy is currently exploring the connection to the body, the imagination and the earth. Embodiment and the natural environment is now a crucial writing stimulus for all her new work.
“As a performer and writer, Zena Edwards takes storytelling into the twenty-first century.”
“Edwards is a superb performer.” Lyn Gardner, The Guardian
“Convincing, raw performance full of passion and conviction.” The British Theatre Guide
“A deeply original, dramatically dexterous portrait of London’s bewildering kaleidoscope of difficult, defiant life.” Time Out
“An unlimited supply of potent charged poetry, which is moving, relevant, innovative.” Whats On Stage
Writing and Performance for Radio
Her commissions for poetic dramatic writing, span across a number of years. Her own passion for the oral tradition creating soundscape and audio story-telling has seen her commissioned by Writers Mosaic and the Bernie Grants Arts Centre Windrush Commemoration Day.
She was commissioned to write for BBC Radio Three's adaptaion of Virgina Woolfe's Orlando which was nominated for the BBC Radio Drama Awards, and has performed for on Michael Macmillian's 'The Verb' on numerous occasions.
Zena has been involved in climate and environmental awareness raising since 2016.
Her poetic advocacy work includes climate and environmental awareness, sustainability, well being and regeneration.
Her writing and performance pedagogy is rooted in identifying the connection to the Earth, the body, human resilience and the imagination which greatly informs her mentorship practice.
Nature Persists her most recent inititiative which uses creativity and somatic principles to view the body as an intelligent vessel that can hold the duality of nature and the man-made environment, and find a wholistic balance of comfort and well being between the two.
Poet With Music
Music is at the core of Zena's writing and performance practice.
"For me, poetry is a musical score that deepens the meaning of language in the moment and words are the musical notes ."
Her music collaborations include The Last Poets, composer and guitarist, Femi Temowo, Jamie Woon, and Randolf Matthews, .
She was invited as support for Hugh Masekela and Larry Willis as part of the London Jazz Festival and collaborated with Award Winning musician Senegalese artist Babaa Maal, for Africa Utopia at the Royal Festival Hall.
In Other Words - a collaboration with Jamie Woon. Produced by Apples and Snakes Poetry Organisation
Healing Pool in collaboration with Randolf Mathews, Henrik Jensen, Maurice Velez. Produced by The One Taste Collective
Wood And String in collaboration with Femi Temowo
Why I write
I dream of returning to water,
Each drop with genius within
I melt into mineral -
iron fleck, porcelain clay
And saltpetre, the spark-catcher,
The seed vessel of the flame.
I’ve been writing since I was a child.
Poetry is the one literary form that has given me space and freedom to truly express the feelings I feel for the awesomeness and drama the world has to offer. For all the years I’ve been writing, the poetic word, performed, spoken or read from the page, has always been the love I return to as a North Star, as an old friend, and as a confidante.