Are you inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests around the world?Yes. I love the process of going through my old work and making sudden discoveries. When books by black poets do get reviewed, it’s not unusual for reviewers to group them together as performance poets as opposed to literary poets.

How did you start out in poetry?I always liked writing, but I was quite late to an appreciation of poetry.

Why do we turn to poetry in challenging times?The poet is attempting to articulate what cannot be said; that imagistic language seems to hold painful emotions and find the essence of them. What it can do is raise awareness.Interview by Jude Rogers, Linton Kwesi Johnson’s Selected Poems is published by Penguin.

Also: Patricia Smith, Caroline Bird, Lisel Mueller, Tony Hoagland.Quote a line from a poem of yours that you think best reflects our times.I wrote a poem during quarantine for someone whose kid was fed up with being inside, and one of the lines was: “I brought you into a world I do not know, all I could do was discover it with you.” I’m quite obsessed with parenthood even though the idea of it terrifies and slightly repulses me – the idea of being solely responsible for another human being.

Interviews by The Caribbean Artists Movement, founded by Barbadian poet Kamau Brathwaite, Trinidadian publisher John La Rose and Panamanian-Jamaican writer Andrew Salkey in London in 1966, set about promoting the work of marginalised Caribbean artists, writers and poets.

ABOUT ME . Who are the poets you turn to?I’ve been looking to poets coming up behind me, like Gboyega Odubanjo and Belinda Zhawi, and poets ahead of me, like James Berry, who was the first black poet to anthologise black British voices. Covering film, music, art, culture, social issues and politics, Rife is everywhere covering everything Bristol has to offer its young people through all your favourite channels, like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Vines, photos and more.

People need to be educated about that for healing to take place.

All rights reserved. A 2018 study found that only 7% of work published in poetry journals were by people from BAME backgrounds. I can so identify with it. I was bullied. Now I’m published by Bloodaxe Books. His first poem in a decade, Goodnite, is published in the spring 2020 issue of Prairie Schooner – a University of Nebraska literary quarterly. Poetry was a cultural weapon. Writing poetry for me was always a political act. I’m so glad I’m alive to see it happening.

Have you joined in?I haven’t joined in as I’ve been isolating.

VANESSA KISUULE . It’s for the ordinary, the unspoken for, the undocumented. I thought it sounded pretentious, but then he showed me some stuff on YouTube and I just thought, that’s so brilliant, that really speaks to me. This is their time.

Name a poem that you wish you had written.The Same City, by Terrance Hayes, I think is an almost perfect poem. Also, as these atrocities accumulate, there’s a kind of fatigue that sets in and you can lose faith, and I think there’s something re-energising about connecting to feeling, even if that feeling is pain, because it creates nuance, and creating nuance is encouraging to empathy.

That was quite profound, knowing that these poems now exist without me, and are part of a dialogue. Can poetry change the world?No.

'Somewhere To Call Home': A Poem By Vanessa Kisuule - YouTube How did you start out in poetry?My father was a Jamaican Rastafarian who would record poems off radio and TV. That route wasn’t something I was aiming for, so I never had to come up against the prejudices that lie within it. Linton Kwesi Johnson was born in Jamaica in 1952, and emigrated to Brixton, London, in 1963. You who perfected the ratio.

Change is long overdue and everything from bookstore shelves to prize shortlists to publishing boardrooms needs to reflect the actual DNA of the country.

The whole object of making albums for me was to get my poetry out to people, which worked. Which poets make you laugh?I don’t think I’m biased but in all honesty the poet John Agard, whose poetry is often imbued with a subversive humorous spin.

There has been no substantive change in any society without that complementary process of magical thinking.Interview by Killian Fox. I don’t think I ever didn’t write poetry, in that sense.

What is your favourite protest or political poem?A poem by the Latin American poet Martin Espada, Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100, about 43 people [members of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 100, working at the Windows on the World restaurant] who lost their lives in the World Trade Center attack. I agree with David Olusoga that black history must be taught in schools.

Roger Robinson’s success as the first black British poet to win the TS Eliot prize in 2020 is something that should be both applauded and interrogated.

You’ve published two books, but do you still feel more at home on the stage?Yeah, probably, and that’s a gap I’d like to bridge.

Recently, more than 100 black authors formed the Black Writers’ Guild. Poems such as Linton Kwesi Johnson’s Five Nights of Bleeding explored the 1981 Brixton riots, while Benjamin Zephaniah’s The Death of Joy Gardner lamented on the killing of a Jamaican student who died in 1993 after being detained during a police immigration raid at her home. As Kwame Dawes writes in Wasafiri Vol 18: “The black British ‘performance poet’ who decides to produce for the page is faced with a massive challenge. We teamed up with award-winning poet Vanessa Kisuule and Tomorrow's People for this searing, honest and brutal takes on one of the most important issues facing young people today: Homelessness.We worked with Tomorrow's People, an organisation that runs a programme for young people not in work, education or training to discuss the issues important to them.

It serves a purpose, like the Bible did in my mother’s generation. Anita Sethi, Sun 28 Jun 2020 03.00 EDT

Most of what I’ve written over the years is about racial equality and social justice. Chingonyi is poetry editor for The White Review and an assistant professor at Durham University.

When I was 13, my mother invited me to a group called Leeds Young Authors, which she co-ran with founder and poet Khadijah Ibrahiim.

He showed me how to write poetry of protest and witness.

Quote a line from a poem of yours that you think best reflects our times.Taking one line from a poem is a bit like taking a brick from a wall.

Literature was a forum for idea-sharing, community-building and support too.

I also love William Blake, and how he wrote about class, and the literary landscape he created in London. Last modified on Tue 13 Oct 2020 07.09 EDT. Two of my poems, Miami Airport and Two Guns in the Sky for Daniel Harris, have been read, filmed and uploaded recently by people in America as part of the protests.

There’s been a huge response here because there is racism in the legal system, and a culture of impunity in the police. Books have always been my friend, saviour, way to travel, to see myself. Many don’t realise why black and brown people are in England and how Britain has benefited economically from slavery and colonialism.

When I was 18 or 19, I went to Uganda, where my family are from, and I ended up hanging out with a cousin who was really into performance poetry. Back home, I made my first foray into performing at the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden. I’m so moved and impressed by them and I feel like I’m in the middle of a seismic shift and worldwide revolution. Performance poetry revolutionised me.

School developed my love of William Blake and the language of the Bible. It doesn’t matter if the current protests were inspired by America. What kinds of challenges have you faced as a black poet in the UK publishing industry?I’ll be honest with you. She was born in London to Guyanese and Grenadian parents, grew up in Guyana and currently lives in Leeds.

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