Friday, August 3, 2018

be my next inspiration

Poetry Luck abounds this summer: here visiting friends in London my family was invited to the launch of Be My Next Inspiration, a collaboration designed to support the Young People's Laureate for London project.  It was a small but mighty affair, a pop-up stage in a London-proper narrow lane with a fair crowd and a feature we always appreciate:  civilized consumption of alcohol in a public space.

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
this story
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.” 
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.”
No Name Club | Momtaza Mehri

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.


  1. Wow! Just Wow! Wow that you are in London, and Wow that you saw this amazing event and Wow that you shared this brilliant poetry with us. Thanks!

  2. Another trio of WOWs: What an event!! What poetry! What poets!!

    There are actually lots of cities (well, more than one) that have youth poet laureates. Makes me think we need one for Columbus, too! (I went digging a bit and found this:

  3. These voices are powerful and important - thank you for sharing, Heidi! Mehri particularly speaks to me at this moment as I have been reading (listening to) INVISIBLE GIRLS, which is in part about a Somali refugee family that includes 5 little girls in the Pacific Northwest US. Thank you for bringing a bit of your London experience to us! xo

  4. Amazing and inspiring! Thanks for sharing this!

  5. Wow, and you just stumbled onto this??? Serendipity, indeed! This is amazing! I hope you're having/or had an awesome trip.

  6. Zounds! What an event to stumble upon. How exciting. Each city needs a poet laureate.

  7. How serendipitous that you found that event, or that it found you. Wonderful poetry... powerful voices.

  8. I'd love to see more youth poet laureates, but we do have a rousing and popular spoken word group here in Denver. These are amazing, Heidi. It's terrific that you were there, and now sharing all with us. Thanks!

  9. Such powerful and rich poetry Heidi thank you for sharing all with us–and as Brenda said, "serendipitous that you found that event."

  10. Add my wows to the chorus! The talent on display here is amazing! Thank you for sharing!

  11. I like "This story is a loop of starting,
    and kids don't know where
    they start and the story ends."
    Is there a poet laureate (youth or otherwise) chosen for the Gaithersburg Book Festival? I can see that being low-hanging fruit because they might be into that idea.

  12. Wow! What an experience. Thank you for sharing. Now, in addition to supporting, this how can we create space and voice for poetry in all our communities? Can you imagine....

  13. What a fantastic project, poetry is so important for young people, as a healthy means of self-discovery and expression. So glad to see programs like this!

  14. What a fabulous experience, Heidi. #stuvoice needs to acknowledged in all arenas but as a young poet laureate that is amazing. I am sure this was one of many fantastic memories from your London trip.


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!