Yomi Sode, Raymond Antrobus and Victoria Adukwei Bulley are among 17 contemporary Black British poets recording their poems for a new collection by the Poetry Archive and Obsidian Foundation.
Organisers said the digital and audio-visual collection "explores the quality, influence and poetic lineage of contemporary Black poets". The collection will be added to each year and complements an existing library of celebrated Black poets which includes Linton Kwesi Johnson, Benjamin Zephania and Bernardine Evaristo.
The Obsidian Foundation was founded in 2020 and hosts the Retreat for Black poets, while the Poetry Archive was created to capture the voices of important poets reading their work to preserve their voices for future generations to enjoy. Alongside the poems, recordings of conversations between the selected poets will be available.
Organisers said the collection will provide a high quality resource for Black poets to support their development, raise their profiles to new audiences and redress inequalities in the representation of poetry by Black writers. All the poems featured in the collection have been selected by the poets themselves and will be freely accessible for a global audience and partners for education, with a suite of resources tailored to primary and secondary students.
Sode (pictured) will see his new collection Manorism published with Penguin in May 2022. Antrobus was shortlisted for the T S Elliot Prize this year, and Adukwei Bulley was recently published by Faber. Other poets in the collection include Rachel Long who leads the Octavia Poetry Collective, Caleb Femi, winner of the 2021 Forward prize for best first collection, and Warsan Shire, whose poetry featured in Beyoncé's film "Lemonade" and debut book Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head: Poems, which will be published by Chatto & Windus in March 2022.
Chris Albani, Inua Ellams, Jacob Sam La-Rose, Jay Bernard, Kayo Chingonyi, Keith Jarret, Malika Booker, Momtaza Mehri, Nick Makoha, Nii Parkes and Roger Robinson will also feature. The Obsidian Foundation Collection will be available on the Poetry Archive website from 18th February 2022, with a live launch the day before.
Nick Makoha, founder and director of the Obsidian Foundation, said: “Obsidian Foundation is a lighthouse for aspirational Black poets and so it’s an honour to be partnering with The Poetry Archive to curate this new collection. In selecting the initial 17 poets we wanted to reflect the social importance of Black poetry while sharing contemporary voices that could resonate with everyone. The stories that are in the poems selected reflect a broad church of Black expression and add necessary nuance to the times we are living in. We look forward to working with The Poetry Archive over the next few years to expand the collection of living Black poets.”
Tracey Guiry, director of the Poetry Archive, added: “We believe poetry is for everyone, and we make our poetry recordings freely available so that visitors to our collections can hear how the authors read their work. We make the highest quality recordings of the significant poets of the day so that, year by year, current and future generations can continue to hear these poems and experience the zeitgeist of the age through poetry. When a poet is developing it is crucial they understand their connection with the poetry canon surrounding them and which paved the way for their work. There are fewer resources dedicated to the history and contemporary development of Black poets’ work and we wanted to address this through this new Obsidian Foundation Collection to include recordings, interviews, interpretations, blog responses, academic responses and a timeline to build a ‘family tree’ of poetic lineage. Working with Nick Makoha and Obsidian Foundation was the natural choice for us to find the most interesting and well regarded Black poets in the UK today. It has been wonderful to experience their works and we will continue to work with The Obsidian Foundation to invite more Black poets into the collection in the future.”