image: Salena Godden FRSL courtesy of the artist, all rights reserved.


Salena Godden is a high-profile poet and writer who appears regularly on BBC radio and television and at international poetry and book festivals. She is a broadcaster, essayist and memoirist whose work has been widely shared and anthologised. The Royal Society of Literature elected her as a fellow FRSL in November 2020.

Her essay Shade was published in award-winning anthology The Good Immigrant (Unbound); to mark the 5-year anniversary, a new edition of this number one best-selling book was published in October 2021.

Godden has had several volumes of poetry published including Under The Pier (Nasty Little Press) Fishing in the Aftermath (Burning Eye Books) Pessimism is for Lightweights – 13 Pieces of Courage and Resistance (Rough Trade Books) and literary childhood memoir, Springfield Road (Unbound). Salena Godden has recorded and released several studio albums, most recently a spoken-word double album LIVEwire (Nymphs and Thugs) which was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award. In May 2020 she released ‘The Lockdown E.P’ (Nymphs and Thugs) with profits being donated to the NHS charities.

Canongate published her debut novel Mrs Death Misses Death in January 2021 to high acclaim – it was shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize and has been nominated for The People’s Book Prize. The book has been described by the publisher as “intoxicating and life-affirming” and in The Bookseller as “an original, exuberant novel, freewheeling from prose to poetry to non fiction, truly one of a kind.”

Film and TV rights to this unique debut novel have been optioned by Idris Elba and his production company Green Door Pictures. Commenting on the deal, Idris Elba said: “Mrs Death Misses Death feels like an instant classic, with an intoxicating story that crosses time and continents. I was immediately drawn to Salena’s writing and am humbled and excited to have the opportunity to bring her brilliant words to life on screen.”

Throughout 2018 Salena Godden‘s Pessimism is for Lightweights was displayed in an exterior window at Arnolfini Gallery.

This poem has been donated to The People’s History Museum, Manchester where it is on permanent display.


Think of those that marched this road before

And those that will march here in years to come
The road in shadow and the road in the sun
The road before us and the road all done
History is watching us and what will we become
There is power and strength in optimism
To have faith and to stay true to you
Because if you can look in the mirror
And have belief and promise you
Will share wonder in living things
Beauty, dreams, books and art
Love your neighbour and be kind
And have an open heart
Then you’re already winning at living
You speak up, you show up and stand tall
It’s silence that is complicit
It’s apathy that hurts us all
Pessimism is for lightweights
There is no straight white line
It’s the bumps and curves and obstacles
That make this time yours and mine
Pessimism is for lightweights
Pessimism is for lightweights
This road is never easy and straight
And living is all about living alive and lively
And love will conquer hate
(c) Salena Godden. Arnolfini version. January 2018

Read Pessimism is for Lightweights: The Life of One Poem – Salena Godden by clicking here

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