While studying Comparative Literature at Queen Mary University of London I regularly performed on the spoken word circuit in London, competed in poetry slams, and even reached the UK Poetry Slam final in 2015. Winning really wasn’t important, which is good, because I didn’t. But I felt galvanised by the type of people doing what I was doing. At the same time, I was editing the Queen Mary Review and organising and compering spoken word poetry events at QMC’s Ground Cafe with headline acts like Joelle Taylor, Vanessa Kisuule and Bridget Minamore.
Being the Spoken Word Poetry Editor of The Friday Poem has given me a chance to re-engage with the art form. Reviewing and profiling some of the poets I’ve followed and loved for years – Joelle Taylor, Kae Tempest, Holly McNish, Vanessa Kisuule – has been a joy. To me, they’re some of the most admirable people, pouring their hearts and souls and energies and ideas into little books. And they’re doing it for you. For us.
I review them because someone might read a review and think, ‘I’ll give that a go’. Or the poet themselves will read a review and go, ‘Yes!’ Or even, ‘No!’. Having someone engage with your art – feel something, think something – was always, for me, the thing that kept me ticking, that validated me as an artist. So if my review encourages you to read a book of poetry, or to book a gig, then that’s me set.