Freelance journalist (BBC, RFI, magazines), writer (first book on Bristol's music and art scene), I work with Raoul Peck on his film projects. Born in Paris, I have been based in Prague, Miami, London, Nairobi (covering Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia) and Bristol, UK. Travelled to Italy, Haiti, Tunisia, Liberia, South Africa, India, Mexico, Niger, Turkey, Iraq... Passions: Africa, Europe, literature, music, arts. This blog is to share thoughts and cultural discoveries from around the world.
World Poetry Day
“...navigating your way around the human heart”...
Though April is the more official “Poetry Month,” today marks World Poetry Day, a 24-hour period incepted by UNESCO in 1999 to recognize and appreciate the form’s ability to transcend language, culture, and human differences. And while, in our digital-crazed world, it might be more tempting to spend another day scrolling mindlessly through our Instagram feeds—home to its own community of poets—than it is to pick up a book, the beauty of poetry is such that it also offers its own brand of instant gratification.
There is arguably no genre more visceral than this one, or more evocative. For those looking to feel, escape and be transported elsewhere for a moment or two, we’ve rounded up our favorite on-the-rise talents whose collections are worth your investment. Below, 9 works of poetry to love and learn from.
Boneby Yrsa Daley-Ward Bone has captivated readers worldwide since its debut in 2014. Daley-Ward’s short poems cover subjects like depression, falling in and out of love, and sexuality, with a fierce staccato that, as the title suggests, cuts deep. “If you’re afraid to write it, that’s a good sign," Daley-Ward toldThe Guardian in 2017, "I suppose you’re writing the truth when you’re terrified."
Sad Girlsby Lang Leav Novelist and Poet Lang Leav was born in a Thai refugee camp, while her family was fleeing the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. She grew up in Australia, where she discovered her love of the written word. Sea of Strangers is an empowering debut collection of poetry and prose centered on themes of self-discovery and, in Leav’s own words, “navigating your way around the human heart.”
Calling A Wolf A Wolfby Kaveh Akhbar Kaveh Akhbar’s recent collection has lit up every corner of the poetry world. These are meditations on life as viewed through the color-saturated prism of a self-admitted alcoholic-addict, who finds beauty in even the ugliest of experiences. In this work, they run the gamut: you’ll drink sweet plum juice before walking on cut glass, and swim in milk rivers as you wait for disaster.
Bestiaryby Donika Kelly Donika Kelly’s Bestiary is all about creatures: monsters, mythological beasts, living things half human and not, chimera, centaurs, whales and ostriches, and, that strangest beast of all, mankind. Her visual, free-form works question: who are the real monsters here?
Photo: Courtesy of Penguin Random House / Flipped Eye Publishing
Teaching My Mother How To Give Birthby Warsan Shire You’re already familiar with Shire’s work to some degree if you’ve ever listened to Beyonce’s Lemonade, on which the poets lines appear in six different songs. In "Intuition:" “I tried to make a home out of you, but doors lead to trap doors, a stairway leads to nothing. Unknown women wander the hallways at night. Where do you go when you go quiet? The past and the future merge to meet us here. What luck. What a f*cking curse.” More of that woman-focused magic here, from beneath the veil of constricted culture informed by Shire’s Somali Islamic faith.
Lookby Solmaz Sharif A finalist for the 2016 National Book Award, Look examines what happens to human emotion in the midst of warfare. Sharif’s first collection delivers truth with an urgency from which you can’t look away, demanding that the reader stand to attention.
Don’t Call Us Dead: Poemsby Danez Smith The power of wrathful poetry is tested in this anthology, which confronts the value of human lives through the lens of race and sexuality. It is Smith’s attempt as a sexually fluid, African American man at contending with history and the promises the future claims to keep. In a mashup of historical commentary, sexual awakening and sudden claps of joy, Smith weaves together a series of complex, piercing narratives.
Rice & RainBy Romalyn Ante Filipina poet Romalyn Ante takes readers on a sensory exploration through her homeland, from dances under monsoon raindrops to the aromas of her mother’s “tamarind-scented fingers.”
Weather Poemsby Dave Lucas Cleveland-born poet Dave Lucas returns to the city of his birth, where he dwells on the raw state of things in the rust belt, from its light-filled natural landscapes to ecological, social and political shifts in the community.