Caleb Femi: 'Henceforth I’m solely preoccupied with being a merchant of joy'

The poet, film-maker, photographer and former young people’s laureate for London talks about growing up on the North Peckham estate and his debut collection, Poor

Every Monday when Caleb Femi was a young boy in the 1990s, the walkways in the housing estate where he lived with his parents and four siblings were swabbed down with a detergent that smelled of bubblegum. Home was “one bedroom and seven bodies making do” on the 13th floor of a tower block: “But all of a sudden that space was transformed by my eight-year-old imagination into a wonderland where everything felt shiny and bouncy,” he says. “Mondays were my favourite days.”

London’s North Peckham estate takes centre-stage in his debut poetry collection, Poor, which has been hailed as “stunning” and “revelatory”, gathering advance praise from a stream of fans including British screenwriter and actor Michaela Coel and the American political sonneteer Terrance Hayes.

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