But wait--go back a second: a Young People's Poet Laureate for a city? I mean, London is more than just a city, but I can tell you that my locality, large as it is, does not have a poet laureate of any kind, much less one dedicated to being and raising the voices of young people aged 13-25.* And on this program was not one inspiration, but SIX young poets performing their work and representing both the wide variety of flavors to be found in the capital but also their shared experience of being young, British and susceptible to marginalization.
Here are some ways to enjoy the same poems that we heard on Tuesday night.
The Story We All Know | Caleb Femi
I know I am the unreliable narrator of
but if anyone is to tell it let it be me.
It starts as the wind blows through
the hollow torso of a concrete estate
singing like a clarinet does when bad news
drags its solemn face into a crowd of kids...
This story starts in Barking where they
tuck their wonder
under a pillow as it is too precious to
bring it into the classroom....
This story is a loop of starting,
and kids don't know where
they start and the story ends.
PhilospHer | Rakaya Esime Fetuga
home | Zia Ahmed
running like thought running from thought rattling from the constant battling
broken pieces floating tokens token gestures token jester open sesame ali baba forty
thieves forty grievances nothing to pledge allegiance with trapped in a box...
I highly recommend you watch the rest here on BBC Asian Network.
And here is this year's Young People's Laureate, 24-year-old Momtaza Mehri. From an article in the Evening Standard:
Mehri is a Somali-Brit who grew up in Kilburn and Birmingham. For her, poetry has never conformed to one particular tradition. “I was raised in a household where there was lots of poetry around me, recited, cassette poetry that my father used to play. A lot of it wasn’t in English but I also really liked the poetry anthology taught at school — so I would go home and research and be like, ‘Oh my God, Sylvia Plath, who is this?’ I was involved in many traditions at the same time.” Moreover, she also spoke four different languages. “It was the kind of household where if you’re getting shouted at by your aunt to come downstairs, in one sentence she will use Somali, Arabic, Italian and English.”No Name Club | Momtaza Mehri
She immersed herself in a dawning online scene, the poetry that was beginning to be published on Tumblr and LiveJournal, and watching def poetry jams on YouTube. “I was feeding my own obsessions in my own home.”
She remains thrilled by the possibilities of this live, labyrinthine archive, which grows online every day. “It’s allowed people to access worlds they would not necessarily have been exposed to.” Her inspirations include Mourid Barghouti, a Palestinian poet, June Jordan, Amiri Baraka. “And Keats. Always.”
This event was sponsored by Spread the Word, the parent literary organization of the Young People's Laureate, and by BUREAU Creative Agency, which produced a publication of the evening's work. View it here. You should know that the Young People's Laureate for London project is in danger--there is no funding in place for next year's program. I made my donation here and maybe you will too, to support #diversevoices and #diversebooks in our English-speaking culture. And of course you can follow all these poets on Twitter!
The round-up today is with Mary Lee at A Year of Reading, where you always get more than a year's worth of reading.
*However, check it out: Montgomery County, PENNSYLVANIA, does have a Poet Laureate, and our Maryland's capital Annapolis just instituted a Poet Laureate program, which makes me think that Montgomery County, MD definitely needs one.