Race & Poetry & Poetics in the UK

Biographies and Abstracts


Mary Jean Chan


Mary Jean Chan is a poet, editor and academic from Hong Kong. She was shortlisted for the 2017 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem, and came Second in the 2017 National Poetry Competition. Her debut pamphlet, A Hurry of English, is published by ignitionpress, and was recently selected as the 2018 Poetry Book Society Summer Pamphlet Choice. She is a Ledbury Poetry Critic and an editor of Oxford Poetry. Her debut collection will be published by Faber & Faber in July 2019. Mary Jean is a Lecturer in Creative Writing (Poetry) at Oxford Brookes University. She currently lives in London.


Maryama Dahir


404 Error – ‘Liberation’ Not Found


Sylvia Wynter, in ‘A Black Studies Manifesto’ writes, ‘To define our liberation in terms of a canon or the multiculturalization of knowledge [...] simply serves to continue our ongoing destruction as a population group.’ Wynter critiques the oppressive nature predicated in Western humanism and calls for the ‘rupturing’ of language by pointing to the study of the ‘Science of the Word’. The Black relationship to Western European language is a flawed one of an irreconcilable violent past. It’s poetry and the arts that provide a language for a pedagogy of liberation. What is born from this is what Martinican Aimé Césaire calls the Poetics of Knowledge. For Césaire, poetry is more than words carefully structured into stanzas – for him, poetry is revolt. In a similar tradition, Black poets continue to scream, shout, and roar their battle cries against physical and ontological violence to emancipate the Black mind, body, and soul. Moments of tension between imperial language and the decolonial poetry of Black Women such as Suzanne Césaire, Audre Lorde, and Ijeoma Umebinyuo bring to question the role and power of language and poetics. Their poetics not only informs present day movements against racism, imperialism, and white supremacy, but also stand as blueprints for decolonial poetry that is in a state of ‘rupture’, and their language offers an insight on the futurity of Poetic Knowledge.


Maryama Dahir is the editor of 1991, a Somali cultural print magazine debuting fall 2018. She’s also the Communications Strategist for Village Financial Cooperative, a Black-led Credit Union in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She’s completing her MA in Comparative Literature at SOAS where she looks at the relational power and philosophy of language and rhetoric in ‘post’-colonial artforms.


Decolonise Cambridge


Janani Ambikapathy


Priyamvada Gopal


Chana Morgenstern


Lola Olufemi


Chinelo Ezenwa


Stifling Indigenous Agency through Translation: the Igbo Psalms and a Poetics of Decolonization


This paper examines the negative impact of colonially translated Igbo Psalms on Igbo Christians of Nigeria. A critical reading of the Psalms from the Union Bible (1913), translated from Greek by British missionary T.J. Dennis, shows that it adopts a literal meaning at the expense of the readers. A case in point is from Psalm 23:1 where ‘shepherd’ was translated as ‘onye na-azum dika aturu’, literarily meaning ‘the one that tends me like a sheep’. In Igbo, ‘aturu’ is used in a derogatory sense also symbolizing imbecilic. Such interpretations are ‘legacies of colonialism’ because they depict the readers as the inferior Other. Based on historical accounts, my paper argues that the aptly named Bible was an instrument of British colonization because it was designed to unionize the diverse Igbo group to facilitate early missionary colonization which started in 1857. Moreover, the missionary translators ignored the flaws observed by native readers in 1913 because they considered the contrived language of the text, Union Igbo, an improvement on supposed ‘barbarous’ Igbo dialects. Previous African scholarship address the historical background of colonial Bible translations; however, they do not examine the role of contemporary translations which still have traces of imperial bias. I specifically examine the language of the Igbo Bible as a colonial tool which continues to perpetuate imperialism. And within this framework, I identify the ways in which local writers such as Chinua Achebe and Buchi Emecheta interpret the process of missionary intervention in Igboland. Ultimately, I locate translation at the heart of the colonial encounter and by re-examining the history of Igbo Bible translation, I re-position translation as a tool of resistance and subsequently offer contemporary re-translations of selected passages to promote Igbo Indigenous agency.


Chinelo Ezenwa is a PhD Candidate in the department of English and Writing Studies, Western University with interests in Diasporic and Black writing. She also likes to explore contemporary novels and films based on regency England. She grew up in Nigeria and has previously done graduate work in the UK in the field of TEFL and Applied Linguistics. The proposed paper is from her current PhD research at Western University which examines the long-term impact for Igbo and other African Christians of following potentially flawed colonial translations of the Bible.


Foyle Young Poets


The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award, run by The Poetry Society, is the largest and most prestigious award for young poets aged 11-17 writing original works in English. In 2017 over 6,000 young poets from 72 countries entered nearly 11,000 poems. Winners of the Foyle award include Jay Bernard, Jade Cuttle and Sarah Howe. 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the Foyle Award. Join us for a reading by four recent BAME winners of the competition to get a sneak preview of the names to watch out for in British poetry.


Aisha Mango Borja is a sixteen year old poet from Colombia. She has won the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award twice and been the overall winner of the First Story National Writing Competition with the help of her school’s writer-in-residence and the amazing tutor on an Arvon course she has been on. Aisha has always loved writing poetry despite her dyslexia and has found a natural rhythm when writing about her very expressive Colombian family.


Meredith LeMaître is a home-educated writer and dancer from Brighton. Her poems have previously been published in Hebe Poetry Magazine, Now Then Manchester, Risen and Coterie Magazine. She has also been commended in Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award twice and was a Poetry Rivals 2016 finalist. She was also a second prize winner in the Young Poets Network’s End Hunger UK Challenge and performed her poem at the House of Commons. She always wears pink to poetry events.


Mukahang Limbu is a Nepalese writer based in Oxford. He is a three-time Foyle Young Poet, a SLAMbassador, and has won the First Story National Writing Competition. His poems have also recently been published in England: Poems from a School, an anthology written by migrants. He recently reviewed the latest issue of Modern Poetry in Translation for Young Poets Network. He is a die-hard fan of Ocean Vuong, Mary Jean Chan, Frank O’Hara, Roy Antrobus, and Rebecca Perry, among many others.


Cia Mangat is sixteen and she is from London. She is a top 15 winner in the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award 2018, as well as a top 15 winner in 2017, and was a commended Foyle Young Poet in 2016; she’s been fortunate enough to have her work featured in places such as Blast on Radio 4 with Daljit Nagra and Cerys Matthews’ Sunday morning show on 6Music. She discovered poetry a few years ago, mostly via the Internet, which is also how she fell into editing her online zine for young people, Risen.


James Goodwin


James Goodwin is a poet and an English and Humanities MPhil/PhD candidate at Birkbeck, University of London. His research is on the poetic works of Aime Cesaire, Nathaniel Mackey and David (D. S.) Marriott, and their different contributions to black critical poetics. His poetry has appeared in Intercapillary Space, Zarf, Splinter, Datableed, No Prizes, and the Berkeley Poetry Review. He has to listen to grime when writing his poems, to try to write the cadences and syncopations he hears, to show how they go together in broken, incomplete verse, so that they don't have to come together in or as the poetic representation of a history of displacement or exclusion. He is interested in how black poetry/poetics preserves its formlessness when it is sounded out, how it cascades and falls apart, how it cuts across and through and against representation, recognition, difference, embodiment, to disappear in some other things.


David Grundy


Zero Hour: D.S. Marriott & Simone White


This paper will explore D.S. Marriott’s engagement with grime in his most recent book of poetry, Duppies (2017). ‘Post-work’ and ‘post-brexit’, Marriott’s grime poetics registers the racial antagonisms unleashed by the Brexit vote, and harks back to the 2011 riots triggered by the police murder of Mark Duggan. Marriott understands grime as representing performances of labour, and racialized identity performance itself as a kind of un-remunerated labour, related to black social death. Both internalising and refusing the interpellation of the police and state apparatus, grime is ‘payback’ for demonization by means of ‘n-words’ and ‘asbos’, refusing both ‘use-value’ and ‘beauty’, and instead offering ‘the unknown’ and ‘possibility’. Often literally unintelligible to white mainstream society, it is a space of performative subversion, powerful even when mocked, derided or ignored. As ‘the thread which links afro-pessimism to afro-futurism’, grime could be positioned as a theoretical solution to ongoing debates on Afro-pessimism and Afro-optimism; but it ‘proceeds without ties or duplicity’, refusing identification or pigeonholing. Neither grime nor Marriott’s poetry ask for or require empathy. Their ‘fierce rigour and method’ are tools of diagnosis and resistance vital for understanding poetry, race and politics today. The paper will also examine Simone White’s writing on US Trap in Dear Angel of Death (2017), bringing in questions of gender and of the history of writings of ‘The Music’, in dialogue with thinkers such as Amiri Baraka and Nathaniel Mackey. Historicizing writings on black music, and their intersections with questions of gender and class, this paper will also reflect on the relations between US and UK thinking on anti-blackness and music, and sketch some speculative lineages for the different poetic traditions from which Marriott’s and White’s work emerges.


David Grundy teaches at the University of Cambridge and co-runs the small press Materials and the magazine Splinter. A critical book, A Black Arts Poetry Machine: Amiri Baraka & the Umbra Poets, is forthcoming from Bloomsbury.


Edmund Hardy


The Cover That Uncovers: mixed-race poetics


Looking at ideas of mixed-race and language through the work of UK poets of mixed race, focusing on translation in a decolonial context, critiques of hybridity, and code-switching. The theoretical focus will be on double formations of subjectivity, developed from Anne Anlin Cheng's Second Skin, fused with the vexed relationship between ruptures in global capital and ideas of diaspora. The paper will read the work of Will Harris, Derawan Rahmantavy, and others. What can a consideration of mixedness open up for understanding race and poetry?


Edmund Hardy is an independent scholar and poet of mixed Japanese-British heritage, born in Tokyo. An article on race and poetry is forthcoming in JBIIP. Published a book on poetry and modality in history called Complex Crosses (2014) and co-edits Capsule Editions (small press) and also talks about poetry and politics with Laurel Uziell on Shed (a podcast series).


Will Harris


Will Harris is a writer of mixed Anglo-Indonesian heritage, born and based in London. He has worked in schools, led workshops at the Southbank Centre and teaches for The Poetry School. He is an assistant editor at The Rialto and a fellow of The Complete Works III. Published in the Bloodaxe anthology Ten: Poets of the New Generation, he was featured in ES Magazine as part of the ‘new guard’ of London poets. His debut pamphlet of poems, All this is implied, published by HappenStance in 2017, was joint winner of the London Review Bookshop Pamphlet of the Year and shortlisted for the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award by the National Library of Scotland. Mixed-Race Superman, an essay, was published by Peninsula Press in May 2018. ‘SAY’ is shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem 2018.


Walt Hunter


Riot of Sound: Claudia Jones’s Carceral Poetics


This paper will look at the poems of Trinidadian theorist and communist Claudia Jones. Written in the late 1940s and early 1950s while she was incarcerated in West Virginia and then deported to the UK, Jones's poems root themselves in the specificity of the US prison system in order to move globally, and to bring her into solidarity with revolutionaries in Puerto Rico, England, China, and Russia. Although Jones's essays, especially ‘An End to the Neglect of the Problems of the Negro Woman!’ have become key texts for intersectional feminisms, it is in her ballad stanzas that Jones elaborates her key critical concept of ‘togetherness,’ a form of mutuality that takes shape in her use of rhyme and patterns of sound. Ways of teaching poetry from New Criticism to Deconstruction have occluded the site-based and situational positions from which poetry has been written, in favour of timeless claims about trope and scheme. Jones’s poems, which enact a space of sociality between revolutionary women, are dynamic forms emerging from historical conditions that are intensely racialized, gendered, and classed. As such, they require a poetic pedagogy of dissent that engages histories and discourses of carcerality, deportation, superexploitation, and multiple forms of global migration.


Walt Hunter is the author of Forms of a World: Contemporary Poetry and the Making of Globalization (Fordham UP, 2018) and the co-translator of Frédéric Neyrat’s Atopias: Manifesto for a Radical Existentialism (Fordham UP, 2017). He is an assistant professor of world literature at Clemson University.


Keith Jarrett


Keith Jarrett writes poetry and short fiction. His book of poetry, Selah, was published with Burning Eye. His stories have appeared in anthologies and magazines, including Attitude and Tell Tales IV, with influences ranging from Caribbean trickster figures to Latin American surrealism. In 2010, Keith was UK Poetry Slam Champion. In 2013, his five-star reviewed show Identity Mix-Up debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe festival. In 2014, he completed the pioneering Spoken Word Educators programme, teaching in a secondary school while studying for an MA at Goldsmiths University; he also won the Rio International Poetry Slam championship at the FLUPP favela literary festival. He was a Fiction Fellow at Lambda Writers’ Retreat in Los Angeles, 2015. Keith was commissioned to write a monologue, Safest Spot in Town, as part of the BBC’s Queers series last year. It was performed at the Old Vic and aired on BBC Four. He is currently a PhD scholar at Birkbeck, University of London, where he is completing his first novel.


Sumaya Kassim


On (not) confessing: writing as a Muslim woman


Writing as a racially marked, Muslim woman presents certain challenges. We operate in a racist, Islamophobic society, which is reflected in a publishing industry which rewards Muslim writers ‘bearing witness’ against already marginalised communities. To add credence to our stories there are certain expectations: that we perform our trauma and that we are ‘rescued’ by liberal secularism. Many writers have made careers out of this formula. This whilst ‘confessions’ are extracted from Muslims accused of terror charges through torture by our government and/or with their consent. However, being Muslim is not simply an identity that is defined by racist encounters or policy. By exploring the role of chance and the unexpected, I will consider how the process of writing itself is a space of radical dissent. My presentation explores the role of the personal essay within the public sphere, placing pressure on what confession and testimonial means for the Muslim. Who is confession for? Is there a way to reframe the challenges we face as a place where creativity can flourish? What aesthetic choices can be made to avoid the pitfalls of confessional writing?


Sumaya Kassim (@SFKassim) is a writer and researcher. She is interested in decoloniality, Islam, the politics of emotion, and writing as a radical process. She was a co-curator for Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery’s exhibition The Past Is Now: Birmingham and Empire (2018). Her article chronicling the curatorial process ‘The Museum Will Not Be Decolonised’ (Media Diversified) reflects on the challenges of radical work within institutions. She is a contributor to the essay collection Cut From The Same Cloth (Unbound, forthcoming). She is currently working on a novel and a series of essays. She is a Londoner, but lives in Birmingham.


Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan


Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan is a writer, spoken-word poet, and educator invested in unlearning the modalities of knowledge she has internalised, disrupting power relations, and asking questions around narratives to do with race, gender, Islamophobia, state violence and decoloniality. With a background in History at Cambridge, and an MA in Postcolonial Studies from SOAS, alongside a wider education from the epistemology of Islam and work of women of colour and anti-systemic thinkers from across the world, she regularly speaks and workshops on racism, Islamophobia, feminism and poetry across the UK as well as writing about those topics at her website. Her work has been featured in The Independent, The Guardian, Al-Jazeera, BBC Radio 4, The Islam Channel, ITV, Sky TV, TEDx conferences, music festivals, US slams, and British universities.


Matt Martin


Inventing New Ancestors: Kamau Brathwaite at the Poetry of the Americas Conference


The 1975 Poetry of the Americas conference at the Polytechnic of Central London was a week-long jamboree of talks and performances by poets from throughout the western hemisphere. It was attended by many poets associated with the British Poetry Revival, and represented an important, early step towards correcting that avant-garde configuration’s slowness to attend to non-white voices. Among other intersections, the conference enabled a substantial exchange of ideas between Afro-Caribbean poets and the Revival. For the opening talk, Barbadian poet Kamau Brathwaite immersed his audience in how a history of slavery, colonialism and decolonisation had affected the Caribbean’s language and poetry. Freshly digitised recordings from the archive of Eric Mottram, who compèred much of the conference, reveal contradictory and illuminating reactions to Brathwaite’s paper. Brathwaite’s identification of radical potential in formally conservative poems from the Caribbean, and his contention that the region’s nations should consolidate culturally by eschewing the Revival’s cherished internationalism, challenged Mottram and others to broaden their concepts of innovative poetics. Such challenges remain pertinent when considering what might be lost today through failure to listen across racial and cultural boundaries.


Matt Martin is Stuart Hall Research Scholar at Birkbeck, University of London, where he is working towards a PhD on 'Nation Language Poetry as Political Resistance in the Caribbean and the UK'. He recently completed an MA in Poetic Practice at Royal Holloway, University of London. His collections of poetry include Full Spectrum Apotheosis (Contraband Books, 2013) and the forthcoming Open Parenthesis (Paminar Press), while his visual poetry has appeared in exhibitions like Visual Poetics (South Bank Centre, 2013). He maintains and updates the Innovative Poetry Readings in London event listings page on the website of Birkbeck's Contemporary Poetics Research Centre.


So Mayer


Sexuality as Survival: First Nations 2SQ Poetics as ‘Resurgent Method’


In March 2018, Oji-Cree writer Joshua Whitehead withdrew his poetry collection Full Metal Indigiqueer from the Trans Poetry category of the Lambda Literary Awards, writing that as ‘a 2SQ (Two-Spirit, queer Indigenous) person… I come from a nation that has survived because of sex and sexuality, as post-contact nations that deploy sex ceremonially.’ Sexuality as survival is a significant strategy of anti-colonial resistance because, as Billy-Ray Belcourt, a poet and theorist from the Driftpile Cree Nation, posits: ‘the tenants of the terrain of bad affect [the legacy of colonialism] are… primarily Indigenous women, queer, trans, Indigenous two-spirit peoples, and we are the ones who are theorizing these things. I see this sort of intellectual project too in Gwen Benaway’s poetry, Joshua Whitehead’s, Samantha Nock’s, Leanne Simpson’s.’ This paper will read the work of this contemporaneous constellation of First Nations 2SQ poets to amplify what Simpson (Micho Saagiig Nishnaabeg) calls their ‘queer Indigenous normativity.’ She notes: ‘Queer indigenous bodies are political orders [that…] house and generate a wealth of theory and critical analysis relating to settler colonialism that straight bodies cannot,’ part of her practice of ‘kwe [the Nishnaabemowin word for her gender identity] as resurgent method.’


So Mayer is a writer and activist. Recent books include Political Animals: The New Feminist Cinema (2015) and (O) (2015). <jacked a kaddish> is forthcoming from Litmus. They work with queer feminist film curators Club des Femmes, and as a freelance film journalist and educator. @tr0ublemayer


Ronnie McGrath


Ronnie McGrath (aka ‘ronsurreal’) is a socially conscious visual artist, neo-surrealist poet and novelist. He teaches Creative Writing at Imperial College London and in a diverse range of educational settings. A former Creative Writing lecturer at The University of The Arts, he is also a founding member of the now defunct musical group The London Afro Blok, who toured throughout Europe and performed for the Queen. In 1993, he was commended for his writing by ACER, which later published and awarded him first place for his writing. He is the author of two poetry collections, Gumbo Talk (2010) and Data Trace (2010), the novel On the Verge of Losing It (2005), and the chapbook, Poems from the Tired Lips of Newspapers (2003). He has work in IC3, The Penguin Book of New Black Writing in Britain, Filigree (2018), and the anthology Black Lives Have Always Mattered (2017). Ronnie has published paintings in Callaloo: Journal of African American Arts and Letters – The Politics Issue and in 2008, appeared on the BBC 4 documentary Front Room. To date he has held a solo exhibition of his paintings at Goldsmiths College (2018) as well as various group shows.


Ananya Mishra


Mary Tallmountain’s Continuum: Reviving American Indian Networks of Intellectual Patronage as a Separation of Indigenous Women’s Positionality


My paper aims to look at indigenous women’s critique of formal institutions of learning which sustain dominant literary traditions, to forge intellectual practices that function beyond these established structures. By comparing the poetry of two American Indian poets Paula Gunn Allen and Mary Tallmountain, I will examine this distinctly gendered form of indigeneity that separates its epistemological positionality outside the realm of dominantly white, male traditions within universities that propagate a Eurocentric understanding of sovereignty and indigeneity. These poets believe that indigeneity cannot be politically sustained within institutions set in contested land or those that fail to be critical of the thoroughly racial nature of neo-colonial invasions of indigenous land. Theoretically rooted in the scholarly work of Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Leanne Simpson, Aileen-Moreton Robinson and Bandana Tete, the paper will argue that indigenous women writers define indigeneity as a form of intellectual sustenance that privileges literary transmission through informal and generational networks that root it back to indigenous conceptions of land and literature. The paper will contain a close reading of Tallmountain’s poem ‘Continuum III’  to look into one of these informal networks, a Native form of patronage practised by these two female poets. I will explore how these two poets through the use of interconnected metaphors revive their link to the symbol of ‘Spiderwoman’, which Allen establishes as the fount of indigenous knowledge traditions in the American Indian context. I believe examining this critique is essential within institutions in the UK to first, accept the continued racial nature of our discourses that continues to fail these poets and second, recognize intellectual production outside institutions.


Ananya Mishra is a Cambridge Trust PhD scholar at the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge. She has previously completed her Masters in Modern South Asian Studies as a Gates Cambridge scholar. She is broadly interested in indigenous fiction, poetry, literary criticism and historical interpretation of oral traditions.


Octavia Poetry Collective


Victoria Adukwei Bulley is a British-born Ghanaian poet, writer and filmmaker. An alumna of the Barbican Young Poets, her work has featured in The Poetry Review, Ambit and tonguejournal.org, in addition to being broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour. She was shortlisted for the Brunel University African Poetry Prize 2016, and has been an artist-in-residence at the V&A Museum in London and at Instituto Sacatar in Brazil. Her debut pamphlet, Girl B, forms part of the 2017 New-Generation African Poets chapbook series. Victoria is the director and producer of MOTHER TONGUES, an intergenerational poetry, film and translation project supported by Arts Council England and Autograph ABP.


Rachel Long is a poet, & the founder of Octavia – Poetry Collective for Womxn of Colour. Octavia was founded in September 2015 in response to the lack of inclusivity and representation in literature and academia. Octavia are housed at Southbank Centre, London. Rachel has taught at The Poetry School, The Poetry Society, Tate Modern, and The Arvon Foundation. She is co-tutor on the Barbican Young Poets programme.


Deirdre Osborne


Didactic Poetics: Critical, Creative, Consequentialist


As Jean Fisher (2010) argues, ‘To focus and judge work on the basis of ethnic or racial markers’ can serve as ‘confirmation of expectation, even prejudice’ positioning the artist as ‘anthropological “native informer”’ – which ignores ‘the unique artistic dimension and experience of the work’ and overlooks its potential ‘to deterritoralise’ these very assumptions. This paper explores the ways in which poetry can serve an explicitly didactic purpose in educating readers/listeners about racial-cultural exclusion zones – literally in Benjamin Zephaniah’s late-twentieth-century school poems (‘School’s Out’, ‘Propa Propaganda’, ‘City Psalms’) and literarily in Lemn Sissay’s ‘A Reading in Stansted’. Through centring black pupils’ perspectives (while pupils of all ethnicities constitute his primary addressees, auditors, interlocutors), Zephaniah contests the narrowness of curriculum, elucidates the consequences of ignoring the rich cultural heritages that multi-ethnic populations bring to education, and represents the effects of restricted views of history upon a minoritised young person’s sense of themselves in the world – which links directly to today’s salient question, ‘Why is my curriculum White?’ Contrastingly, Sissay’s poem’s black persona, contracted to read his poetry in a white-clientele pub, is unwitting prey to trans-historic racist hostility, against which art is represented as insignificant and defenseless. While Zephaniah’s and Sissay’s poems articulate discrediting, silencing and disregard, their Didactic Poetics also holds white-majority culture accountable for the consequences of Britain’s imperial past and in doing so, confirms Seamus Heaney’s vision ‘of poetry as its own vindicating force’ (1988).


Deirdre Osborne is a Reader in English Literature and Drama at Goldsmiths University of London. She co-convenes the MA Black British Writing and teaches modules on Shakespeare, Feminism, Modernism and Postmodernism. Her research interests span late-Victorian literature and maternity, to Landmark Poetics, mixedness, adoption aesthetics and Black writing. She edited the first Cambridge Companion to British Black and Asian Literature (1945-2010).


Race and Poetry in Scotland


How should poets of colour living and working in Scotland respond to national debates of race and decolonisation in poetics? The presence-absence of racial discourse in Scottish literary communities demands interrogation in order to highlight how racial identity is often misrecognised or undervalued in predominantly white institutional spaces. The panel will draw upon the shared lived experiences of poets as well as data gathered from the Scottish Poetry Library in order to explore the current contemporary poetry climate in relation to Scotland. How are traditional and stereotypical labels (British, English, Scottish) affected by globalisation, migration and complex lived identities? From academic criticism to literary mentorship, writers of colour in Scotland are often doubly excluded from opportunities and resources, which are becoming more accessible from literary networks and communities elsewhere. What innovations can be developed and led by poets of colour in Scotland in order to better understand the social and political challenges of writing and publishing in Scotland as an ethnic minority?


Nadine Aisha Jassat is a poet, writer, and creative practitioner. She has been published widely online and in print, and her work has drawn acclaim: in 2018, she received a Scottish Book Trust New Writers’ Award, as well as being shortlisted for the Outspoken London Prize for Poetry in Film and the prestigious Edwin Morgan Poetry Award. In 2017, she was named as one of ’30 Inspiring Young Women Under 30’ by YWCA Scotland. Her debut poetry collection is forthcoming from 404 Ink (March 2019).


Alycia Pirmohamed is a Canadian-born poet living in Scotland. She is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, where she is studying poetry by second-generation immigrant writers. Her own writing is an exploration of what it means to be the daughter of immigrants, and grapples with language loss, cultural identity, and displacement. Her work recently appeared in the 2018 Best New British and Irish Poets Anthology.


Zein Sa’dedin is a Jordanian poet born and raised in the city of Amman. She holds a BA in English Lit. with Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Zein is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Her poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from Muzzle Magazine, Sukoon Magazine, Breakwater Review and others.


Jay G Ying currently studies in Edinburgh. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Ambit and

PBS Bulletin. He is the winner of the 2017 Poetry Book Society Student Poetry Prize. He is a reader and mentor for The Adroit Journal.


Nat Raha


Poetics of the Creopole


Countering the institutional whiteness of British poetics and the ‘afterlife’ (Gómez-Barres 2008) of British coloniality, this paper will argue that significant contributions by writers of colour working with the UK can be conceived as a poetics of the ‘creopole’. Building upon Edouard Glissant’s conception of creolisation as a discontinuous process of remembering, in opposition to ‘the massive assertions of the thought’ of Western colonial projects (2011) and the insights of Alberta Whittle that Britain is already a creolised country (2018), this paper will posit the poetics of the creopole as the negation of the coloniality of the metropole. Constellating a history of creolised poetics produced and/or published with the UK, including by independent Black and Third World publishers, the paper will consider work by a number of twentieth century and contemporary writers, including Maud Sauter, Vahni Capildeo, Jay Bernard and D.S. Marriott. Arguing that the fabrication of counter-memory plays a central role in animating poetics of colour in the UK, I will consider how aesthetic innovation may challenge the depoliticisation of such counter-memory by forms of neoliberal multiculturalism (Melamed 2006).


Nat Raha is a poet and trans / queer activist, living in Edinburgh, Scotland. She is the author of numerous pamphlets and three collections of poetry: of sirens / body & faultlines (Boiler House Press, forthcoming), countersonnets (Contraband Books, 2013), and Octet (Veer Books, 2010). She’s performed and published her work internationally. Nat is currently completing a PhD in queer Marxism and contemporary poetry at the University of Sussex. In 2017, her essay ‘Transfeminine Brokenness, Radical Transfeminism’ appeared in the South Atlantic Quarterly, and she is the co-editor of Radical Transfeminism zine.


Azad Ashim Sharma, Kashif Sharma-Patel, and Ashwani Sharma


Performing Thought: A collective poetics of mourning, (Asian) dislocation and the futurities of antiracism


This is a three-part poetry performance followed by an open discussion. Issues to be addressed as part of a collective ensemble include intergenerational memory and regimes of race/racism, trauma, mourning, subaltern and diasporic histories of (Asian) dislocation, and the role of avant-garde aesthetic form in shaping futurities of antiracism. Both the postcolonial and modernist canon have offered lineages of aesthetic thought to prompt our conversation. A collective performance reflects our commitment to collaborative study and conviviality, following the line of poetic thought developed through Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s conception of ‘black study’.


Azad Ashim Sharma is a poet living in South London. He studied English Literature and Critical Theory at the University of Sussex. Azad is affiliated with the ‘Brighton Underground’ poetry scene especially the Hi Zero reading series. Azad co-founded the Sussex Guild of Poetry (2013 - 2015) which organised student poetry events and circulated free poetry pamphlets on both Sussex and Brighton university campuses. In 2017, Azad's first collection of poetry, Against the Frame, was published by Barque Press. This collection engages with the concept of trauma as a result of the experiences of on-going conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Additionally, these poems explore the vulnerability of Azad's complex Islamic-Hindu hybrid identity. Extracts from Against the Frame have appeared in The Beacon (India) and in Issue 14 of Tripwire (USA). Azad has also performed at the Words in the Garden literature festival in New Delhi, India, as well as at the Carnival of Invention (University of Brighton).


Kashif Sharma-Patel is a poet and writer focusing on subaltern history, postcolonial aesthetics and queer performativity. Recent performances include Rivet XVI (SOAS), and Carnival of Invention (University of Brighton). They were shortlisted in the 4th Estate/The Guardian BAME Short Story Competition 2016 with Kalanagar. They also write freelance in the area of music and art with a recent publication in Mixmag. They are a member of the Black Study Group (London), run a blog, and have studied History and Cultural Studies to a postgraduate level.


Ashwani Sharma is currently Principal Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies at the University of East London (UEL). He teaches, researches and has published in the areas of race, poetics, contemporary art, postcolonialism, urban, screen and popular culture. He is a member of the Centre for Cultural Studies Research (CCSR) at UEL, and is a co-editor of the Radical Cultural Studies series (Rowman & Littlefield International). He is presently completing a book on race, time and aesthetics (Bloomsbury). He is the co-editor of Dis-Orienting Rhythms: The Politics of Asian Dance Music (Zed). He blogs, co-edits and contributes to the literary zine Southern Discomfort, and is the founding co-editor the journal darkmatter. He is a member of the Black Study Group (London) and is developing an archival project 'Must We Burn Croyd


In June 2018, Kashif and Azad founded The 87 Press with the goal of providing a publishing platform for neurodivergents, queers, and people of colour in experimental poetry.


Denise Ferreira da Silva


Speculations on a Transformative Theory of Justice


Denise Ferreira da Silva’s academic writings and artistic practice address the ethical questions of the global present and target the metaphysical and ontoepistemological dimensions of modern thought. She is a Professor and Director of The Social Justice Institute (GRSJ) at the University of British Columbia, Adjunct Professor of Fine Arts at Monash University (Melbourne, Australia), and Visiting Professor of Law at Birkbeck University of London. She is the author of Toward a Global Idea of Race and co-editor of Race, Empire, and The Crisis of the Subprime (with Paula Chakravartty) . Her art-related work includes texts for publications linked to the 2016 Liverpool and and Sao Paulo Biennales, Venice 2017, and Documenta 14, as well as collaborations such as the play Return of the Vanishing Peasant (w/ Ros Martin), the films Serpent Rain and 4Waters-Deep Implicancy (w/ Arjuna Neuman), and events (performances, talks, and private sessions) and texts related to Poethical Readings and the Sensing Salon (w/  Valentina Desideri).


Dorothea Smartt


Dorothea Smartt is an internationally respected poet/live artist. London-born with Barbadian heritage, her most recent publication, Reader, I Married Him & Other Queer Goings-On '…is subversive, radical, and surprisingly panoramic...'. She was formerly an Attached Live Artist at the ICA, and has most recently held residencies in the USA (Texas), Scotland, and Barbados. She reads and performs internationally, including engagements with the British Council in Bahrain, South Africa, Egypt, and Hungary. Her poetry collection Ship Shape (Peepal Tree Press, 2008), is an ‘A’ Level English Literature title. In recognition of her contribution to British cultural life, she was nominated for a Barbados Golden Jubilee Award.


Nemequene Tundama


I Don’t Sing for the Love of Singing


Poetry, and art in general, has been used by Latin Americans as a way of standing up against capitalism, imperialism and the white supremacist structures that have been imposed on the region since the beginning of the colonial era. Painters such as Frida Kahlo and Guayasamin, novelists such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, singers such as Victor Jara, Violeta Parra, Ali Primera, Silvio Rodriguez, and Mercedes Sosa, and poets such as Mario Benedetti and Pablo Neruda have all used their art as a weapon to expose centuries of social, political and economic injustices committed against the exploited masses in Latin America. This revolutionary tradition has greatly influenced Latin American artists in the diaspora, their presence often going under the radar in the United Kingdom. In this paper, I will show that in London alone there is a long-established tradition of leftist artists who do not just reproduce art by the artists mentioned above but who have also created art that speaks to the specific experience of Latin American migrants and their struggles in Europe.


The title of this paper comes from the song ‘Manifiesto’ by Chilean singer and songwriter, Victor Jara, who was tortured and killed by the U.S and UK-backed Pinochet dictatorship. In ‘Manifiesto’, Jara states that his interest in playing the guitar and writing lyrics was not about achieving fame or to please the ears of the rich. Rather, Jara states that his music has the responsibility of being part of the process of building a new and more just society. I will show that this theme, so poignantly expressed in ‘Manifiesto’, is present in the music, poetry, and visual art produced by a section of the Latin American diaspora in the United Kingdom.


Carlos Cruz Mosquera (also known by his pen name Nemequene Tundama) is an activist and writer who has been organising within the Latin American community in London for nearly ten years. He is currently the Political Director of the Communist Party of the Latin American and Caribbean Diaspora, also known as ANTICONQUISTA. He is on the editorial board of the Journal of Labour and Society. He has also recently been given a studentship to complete his Master’s degree at the Institute of Latin American Studies, University of London.


Sam Weselowski


Jordan Abel and the Decolonial Praxis of Reading: Spatiality, Sociality, Textuality


This paper argues that Nisga’a poet Jordan Abel’s Injun (2016) articulates a decolonial reading practice of spatial critique and social pedagogy. By outlining how the settler-colonial relationship is structured on the dispossession of land, which is then mystified by a pacifying discourse of settler apology, I suggest that Abel emboldens the overlaps between spatiality, sociality and textuality, proposing a critical literacy toward colonial politics that registers these overdeterminations and deterritorializes them. Furthermore, Abel’s practice depicts how the political and cultural narratives of the state also inscribe what I tentatively call a 'hegemony of feeling', or a set of regulatory practices codifying the affects of settler guilt and apology to facilitate a range of socioeconomic processes of domination. I thus argue Abel probes the materiality of settler-colonialism as a social-spatiotemporal assemblage that can be politically rewritten and radically reorganized. In doing so, Abel gestures toward the broader assemblages constitutive of biopolitical management under settler-colonialism, addressing a collective decolonial subject that resists reconciliatory homogenization. Furthermore, my paper attempts to address some of the issues underlying settler participation in decolonial critique. What assumptions about the circulation (and consumption) of critique emerge when settler scholars call an Indigenous writer’s work decolonizing? How can — or should — settlers engage with Indigenous texts without instrumentalizing their criticality? I thus examine my own potential complicity in a reconciliatory context, and use Abel’s decolonial reading practice to theorize a social relation that foregrounds self-reflexive vigilance and respect for Indigenous sovereignty.


Sam Weselowski grew up on unceded Coast Salish territories (Vancouver). He recently completed his MA at the University of Kent, where his research focused on modern and contemporary poetry and poetics. He has presented academic work at Harvard, Goldsmiths, Simon Fraser University, and the University of East Anglia. His poetry has appeared in Hotel, Canadian Literature, and www.foreveryyear.eu. I Love My Job is forthcoming from If a Leaf Falls Press.


Dorothy Wang


Whither Poetry Studies?


Dorothy Wang is Professor in the American Studies Program and a Faculty Affiliate in the Department of English at Williams College. She specializes in experimental minority poetry and in English-language poetics. She conceived of and co-founded the 'Race and Poetry and Poetics in the UK' (RAPAPUK) initiative. Wang's book Thinking Its Presence: Form, Race, and Subjectivity in Contemporary Asian American Poetry (Stanford University Press, 2013) won the Association for Asian American Studies' award for best book of literary criticism in 2016 and also garnered honorable mention in the Poetry Foundation's first Pegasus Awards for Criticism in 2014. The book was chosen by Ben Lerner for The New Yorker's list of 'The Books We Loved in 2016.' The first national conference on race and creative writing in the United States was named after Thinking Its Presence and was convened in 2014 and 2015 at the University of Montana and in 2017 at the University of Arizona. In 2015, Wang was chosen as the Leslie Scalapino Lecturer in Innovative Poetics at Naropa University. During the academic year 2017-18, Wang was an ACLS Frederick Burkhardt Fellow at the CUNY Graduate Center's Department of English. She is currently a visiting professor at Lingnan University in Hong Kong. She has also published criticism on Asian Australian literature.


Jennifer Wong


Now you see me, now you don’t: translating racial difference in the works of Hannah Lowe and Sarah Howe


In contemporary poetry, the questioning and portrayal of racial identity has evolved from a mere struggle against white supremacy in postcolonial frameworks, to a more complex understanding of racial difference and acceptance, heightened and to some extent problematised by the commoditised terms such as BAME or poets of colour to demarcate difference or denote diversity. In my paper, I will look at two British-born contemporary women poets whose works offer new ways in understanding the portrayal and perception of racial identity and cultural hybridity, particularly in reframing narratives of exclusion and acceptance in poetry. In her first collection Chick, Hannah Lowe offers a poignant yet disturbing portrait of her Jamaican-Chinese father and conveys her difficulty in negotiating racial divides growing up in a multicultural household. In her debut collection, Loop of Jade, which won the T S Eliot Prize in 2015, Sarah Howe questions the linear representation of  race through its linguistic difficulty and experimental narrative. While their poetry have won awards and received much recognition in the contemporary poetry scene, their works have also prompted debates on the ‘authenticity’ of poetry and the question of self-exoticism. Through close reading of their work and analysis of their use of storytelling and formal techniques, I would like to suggest the multiple ways their works have contributed to the new directions of formally innovative poetry. Moreover, I will compare and contrast their poetics in translating difference, and discuss how their poetics have opened up new ways of understanding as well as questioning the relationship between re-imagining difference, self-performance and exoticism.


Born in Hong Kong, Jennifer Wong is completing her creative writing PhD at Oxford Brookes. Her poems have appeared in magazines including The Rialto, Magma Poetry, North, Oxford Poetry, stand and others. She is the author of Goldfish (Chameleon Press), which won the Hong Kong Young Artist Award. She has taught creative writing at Oxford Brookes, City Lit and Poetry School.