This year’s Last Word Festival at The Roundhouse has been a mixture of online and in-person events. Although I had hoped to be able to attend more events, and accessing the festival hasn’t been easy, it was a pleasure to listen to poets Cecilia Knapp and Alexandra Huỳnh in conversation as I tucked into my dinner at home.
The following was originally published as the afterword to the collection Love after Babel and Other Poems by Chandramohan S, published in January 2020 by Daraja Press. The collection won the Nicolás Cristóbal Guillén Batista Outstanding Book Award in January of this year. You can order a copy direct from Daraja Press here.
They ask me why do you write poems?
I write poems – the people have the right to…bear arms.
These lines, taken from his one-stanza masterpiece ‘Why Do I Write Poetry?’, encapsulate the very essence of Chandramohan S’ approach to his craft in his third collection, Love after Babel and Other Poems. These poems are unapologetically weapons, fighting against the pre-modern notion of caste in all its insidious 21st century glory.
January 2021 saw the start of the Living Record Festival, which featured over forty artists and theatre companies showcasing digital work, from spoken word audio pieces to mini-web series. It has garnered many four-star and five-star reviews. In this two-part series, Carmina Masoliver discusses her picks of the festival’s most interesting shows. You can read part two here.
I am your nail technician, your straight A student,
your wildest dream, your exotic girlfriend, your
piano teacher, your lawyer, your doctor, your
nanny, your hairdresser, your Made in China,
your waitress, your receptionist, your
maths tutor, your babysitter,
your Instagram hero,
your voice of wisdom,
your liar, your thief,
your nurse, your writer,
your convenience store clerk,
your disease, your leader,
your toy, your master,
your victim of
I am mine
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Content warning: references to police violence, racist violence.
The revival of the Black Lives Matter movement has inspired an array of haunting artistic responses. Black Lives Matter: Poems for a New World, edited by Ambrose Musiyiwa, is no exception. With over 100 contributions from writers of diverse ages and backgrounds, the collection is a poignant exploration of an era of renewed protest and newfound solidarities, against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic.
By Vyvyan René
On 13th February 2021, the poet Matthew Dickman posted on Instagram: ‘I wish the poem I wrote 14 years ago was still true.’ The poem in question is ‘Chick Corea is Alive and Well’ – an elegy for the jazz pianist, written fourteen years before his death.
‘I do not take photos/I give them/as I always give/in love’, the protagonist of Christine Sloan Stoddard’s poetry/photography collection Heaven is a Photograph declares, a characteristically bold admission of vulnerability. These lines, taken from the poem ‘Unrequited Pixels’, evoke an overarching theme of the collection: the emotional intensity of the protagonist’s relationship with photography. Charting the protagonist’s journey, from a childhood as the daughter of a photographer to becoming a photographer herself, Stoddard’s brief and beautiful collection explores the power of both photography and photographer – through a deft and deeply meta combination of verse and photography itself.
August saw the five-year anniversary of Lauren Kaye’s ‘I’m All In’, a poetry collection described as a ‘seductive collection of romantic and sensual poems that speak on the inevitable episodes of love, sex and relationships’. The occasion was marked on social media – at a time where artists are forced to be more resourceful than ever when the stage is taken away. As Kaye outlines in the introduction, her poetry ‘is written much how I speak’, and it is best to have seen her live or see live videos so you can then hear her voice as you read coming through the pages.
Content warning: brief references to sexual assault
The Barging Buddhi and Other Poems takes us on a journey from human expectations that are created within a set culture, to more cosmic climbs, from which we are brought back to earth with the fragility of life, to then be connected to a wider sense of nature. Sunita Thind’s poetry is rich, sensual and visual. Although her numerous questions throughout the collection hint at self-doubt and uncertainty, she shows a strong sense of voice that is not easily contained, like the ‘pyrotechnical parrots’ she describes, how humans ‘clip their wings to capture the fury of their rainbow constellations / humans devouring them like black holes / sequestered in monster iron cages.’ The collection is strongest when assertive, using imperatives: ‘delete the tears’, ‘stain me’, maroon me.’
When I was asked by a friend to think about the difference between being a professional artist and a semi-professional artist with regards to my own practice as a writer and a poet, the distinction between the two seemed – to quote author Daniel Piper – arbitrary and unnecessary. The word semi-professional is not something that has been in my vocabulary, because my ideas of professionalism go beyond the dictionary definition of these two words.