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.
Naming one poet as the ‘poet of the decade’, or writing lists of poets to watch, can arguably be an arbitrary act. But, the naming does inevitably draw more interest to those poets as we consume the easily digestible content and assume that it must have some bearing on those who made it. As a poet myself, I have seen many lists (looking for my own name as well as potential feature acts for my show, She Grrrowls), and most of these lists do offer some great poets to watch. However, the number of people considering poetry professionally is inevitably growing, and there are always going to be extremely talented poets that don’t get the recognition they deserve.
The Nobel Prize for Literature is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated and respected arts prizes in the calendar year. Previous winners include Harold Pinter, V.S. Naipaul and Toni Morrison – all of whom have gone on to achieve worldwide and commercial success. This year’s prize was awarded to singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, who – surprisingly – only ever wrote one novel. The Blonde on Blonde singer was awarded the honour over rumoured nominees Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Haruki Murakami.‘Having created new poetic expressions within the American songbook tradition’, Dylan’s surrealist, stream-of-consciousness protest lyrics have been given the Nobel stamp of approval – but what impact does this have on our understanding of this increasingly popular form?
by Emmanuel Agu
Lemonade, Beyoncé’s latest album, is aptly named. In the political climate we live in with constant reminders of the atrocities that black people face, and a music industry that seems to be losing its greatest and brightest this year, nothing could have been more refreshing than this album for popular culture and especially for black women. This is undoubtedly the strongest piece of work Beyoncé has ever produced; musically, visually, and politically. With features and samples from a wide variety of artists including James Blake, Jack White, Diplo and for a second time another sample from Outkast’s’ ‘Spottieottiedopaliciousness’ (which I will never complain about), Knowles-Carter goes from strength to strength and I am truly left to question if it is ever possible for her to release an album less brilliant than its predecessor.
by Mike Vinti
It’s been a pretty big couple of weeks in the pop world. Prince died, Beyoncé pulled a well, a Beyoncé, and today (Friday April 29th) Drake has released his new album VIEWS. If ever there was a week to remind us of popular music’s impact on society and culture, this is the one.
While each of these moments are significant in their own right and worthy of articles of their own, of which there have been many, together they’ve demonstrated the power of music to unite people. Be it through, grief, shock or pure unadulterated hype, the three most significant cultural moments of the past eight days have used music to bring people together and for a few days at least, forget about those intent on tearing us apart.
In 2013 I was amongst around twenty poets long-listed for the first Young Poet Laureate for London prize. I remember meeting Warsan Shire that day; she seemed quiet, perhaps nervous, yet confident and bold. We performed one piece to a panel of judges, and I was either before or after Shire. Although she prefers writing to performing her work, I remember being blown away by not only the words, but the delivery of her poem Ugly. I remember that I had already heard lines quoted by Kayo Chingonyi from a workshop he was leading for students at the school where I work. It was no surprise when Shire was shortlisted, much less when she won.
To have the power to write poetry that sticks in the mind is certainly a gift that Shire bestows in much of her work. I have since had the pleasure of seeing Shire again at the launch of the first Podium Poets anthology, by Spread the Word, and attended workshops lead by her on an Arvon retreat. As an aspiring poet, she is an inspiration to many as a writer and as a human being.