‘The poems began to dance among themselves’: curating a fresh mixtape of Black British poetry

A companion to 1998’s The Fire People, Kayo Chingonyi’s anthology creates a space for a new generation of voices to express the wide range of their work

Putting together an anthology is, as the American poet Katrina Vandenberg once said, like making a mixtape. It’s an artefact filled with various resonances. Much like the painstaking process of recording cassettes for one another in the pre-playlist age, editing an anthology is intimate, a gesture towards the reader. And just as you never used to be able to put absolutely every tune you wanted to on tape, the same goes for anthologies. The beauty of the form is in the suggestions it makes, the ways it invites further exploration. In More Fiya, the anthology of Black British poets I’ve edited, a selection of poems stand together as a gesture to the wider and more expansive community to which these poets belong.

Thinking again about the close-reading and listening I did when putting this book together, I’m struck by how phrases, how whole lines from poems, can stay with you. Sometimes I’d be talking to someone and something they said would chime with a line I’d read, and that poem and the conversation would begin to dance together in my head. Then the poems would begin to dance among themselves; the glistening signet ring in Dean Atta’s poem chiming with the knife in a poem by Dzifa Benson; the fires that burn in poems by Janette Ayachi and Momtaza Mehri; Inua Ellams’s reflection on the consequences of wounded masculinity and Kim Squirrell’s poem about those first moments in which girlhood comes under the toxic gaze of men.

Continue reading...


I’ll See You in Frankfurt: On Missing the Biggest Bookish Gathering in the World

Many of your favorite writers are published all over the world. They are published all over the worl...

Read More >

All Our Monstrous Fantasies: A Reading List

In my novel A Touch of Jen, one of the characters, Alicia, builds a personal relaxation module—A Sp...

Read More >

To Imagine Life Post-Climate Change: A Conversation with Diane Cook

I first met Diane Cook in 2013 at Vermont Studio Center, where she read aloud what would be the firs...

Read More >

What the Data Says About How Kids Learn to Read (and Learn to Like It)

Among my favorite book genres is histories of 19th‑century polar expeditions (spoiler alert: it’s ...

Read More >

Good Omens is going beyond the book? That’s not a bad sign

While Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett never wrote a sequel, they did sketch out a plot that will now...

Read More >

Where are the hotshot British male novelists? BAME authors may know

Ashley Hickson-Lovence, Abir Mukherjee, Courttia Newland, Guy Gunaratne, Paul Mendez and Okechukwu N...

Read More >