Poets and writers have not only started to speak on various, often previously avoided, topics but the young heroes of children’s books have changed from white, middle-class kids to children of different ages, social classes and ethnicities. I miss those postcard poems. Four years later, he released his debut album with Dennis Bovell, Dread Beat An’ Blood (he has released 12 dub poetry albums, and five compilations). Raymond Antrobus was born in Hackney in 1986 to an English mother and Jamaican father. And I love to read my contemporaries, in Poetry London or Granta or zines like Zarf, and be blown away by what people are doing. It’s made me realise how misaligned some of us have been. I have to do some deep thinking, some soul searching, I have to commune with other human beings, and then after that process I might write something.

As a marginalised community, it’s about supporting each other to develop craft and be raw and vulnerable.

The poetry of James Berry, of the first generation, dealt with such problems as the lack of career and educational opportunities, alienation and the low level of acceptance from the white population. But it’s where I started and it’s where I feel my words best represent themselves – they feel a little bit naked and defenceless on the page without me to advocate for them. With Covid-19 and the death of George Floyd, the mounting tragedy of death is forcing people to watch and not dismiss systemic racism. There’s a diversity of voices even within the black community – but publishers want another Zadie Smith.
I venture the opinion that Black British poetry for children has managed to overcome the boundaries of Black literature as it is conventionally perceived, in terms of style, themes, expressive means and forms, and that it can rightfully claim its place in the mainstream of British literature. Name a poem you wish you had written.The Domestic Science of Sunday Dinner, by Lorna Goodison, the Jamaican poet laureate – it’s brilliant.

Print. Which poet most makes you laugh and why?John Hegley. In my latest book I have poems such as Black Woman Blackberrying. The specific features of West Indian poetry for children, such as the use of Creole and a close connection with poetry performance, did not exclude it from the category of British literature; indeed, it enriched it. Toi Derricotte, Yehuda Amichai, Patricia Smith. (“A Different Kind of Sunday”, Berry, 15-16, 2004). I’d go so far as to say that racism is part of the cultural DNA of Britain. Sign up for our newsletter to get the freshest stories in your inbox, every day! Publishers need to open up their ideas about the poetic. I felt people had no language for this devastation and were in shock. Included are young Poet Laureates of London; the LGBT History Month Poet Laureate; poets from the Octavia collective, Barbican Young Poets and The Complete Works; as well as a wealth of other recognisable names. With its roots in Peepal Tree’s practice of editorial development, Inscribe began as a project to develop specific writers of African and Asian descent in Yorkshire. I can so identify with it.

What kinds of challenges have you faced as a black poet in the UK publishing industry?When I first started, it was a closed shop. Poem of Shape and Motion #1 by the Guyanese poet Martin Carter, one of my favourite ever poets.

Statues have come down since then with a crane and by official council appointment, but in Bristol we don’t roll like that, we just pulled the fucker down and chucked it in the river. [Jamaica’s poet laureate] Lorna Goodison was on to something when she said there is a medicinal quality to poetry. Change is long overdue and everything from bookstore shelves to prize shortlists to publishing boardrooms needs to reflect the actual DNA of the country. Who are the poets you turn to again and again?Danez Smith is someone who continues to blow my mind, and there’s always something new to see in their work. 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.

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