“Poetry lays the foundations for a future of change”
—Audre Lorde, Your Silence Will Not Protect You
Inpress and the PBS stand to denounce racism in all its forms and have pledged to work together with our fellow North East Culture sector to enact positive change.
Over the last three years our PBS Selectors, including BAME poets Sandeep Parmar, Vidyan Ravinthiran, Degna Stone, Denise Saul, Anthony Anaxagorou, Mary Jean Chan and Nick Makoha, have all placed diversity and inclusivity at the very heart of the PBS Selections. We sincerely hope our selections speak for themselves, as a celebration of all forms of poetry, by poets from all backgrounds, including black voices, indigenous peoples and the wider BAME community. We realise there is still a long way to go.
In solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement we wanted to share some free poems, podcasts and articles by five PBS poets who powerfully address this issue. This reading list is by no means enough, there are so many more incredible black poets whose work we continue to champion, but we hope it will be a positive starting point for those looking to read more widely and begin this vital conversation.
Jay Bernard – Surge - Summer 2019 Recommendation
Surge examines Black British history from the 1981 New Cross Fire to the Windrush scandal and Grenfell Tower tragedy in a searing sequence of poems to read right now. Writing in our Summer 2019 Bulletin Jay explained: "Many questions emerged not only about memory and history, but about my place in Britain as a queer black person" . We've opened up access to Jay's powerful statement from our magazine for all to read here.
Jericho Brown – The Tradition - Autumn 2019 Choice
US poet Jericho Brown's latest collection combines the violent legacy of slavery and the vulnerabilities of the body with breath-taking effect. Recounting the brutal killing of African-American teenager Emmett Till and more recent tragedies, Jericho interrogates issues of whiteness and racial violence at the heart of America. Watch Jericho performing 'Stand' and read 'Bullet Points' on our blog.
Roy MacFarlane – The Healing Next Time - Winter 2018 Recommendation
"A man walks into a shop followed by a police officer, moments later he dies"
Writing in our Winter 2018 Bulletin Roy claimed, "I begin the journey by looking back at the beginning of the new millennium - specifically the landmark Stephen Lawrence Report that brought the British public face to face with the issue of racism." The Healing Next Time poignantly explores police violence and the Black British experience, from the deaths of Blair Peach to Mark Duggan, and offers hope of future healing. Listen to this podcast with Roy on our Blog .
Danez Smith – Homie – Chatto – Spring 2020 Recommendation
US poet Danez Smith made their debut with Don’t Call Us Dead a heart-rending sequence that imagines an afterlife for black men shot by police - "Some of us are killed / in pieces... some of us all at once." In Homie, Smith celebrates friendship and community and the complex nature of home: "this ain't about language / but who language holds". You can read their poem 'I'm Going Back to Minnesota Where the Sadness Makes Sense'
Marvin Thompson – Road Trip – Spring 2020 Recommendation
A Black father grapples with the challenges of educating his mixed-race children in white Wales, the past and present day casualties of empire, Grenfell and Broadwater Farm and asks, "Will Britain learn to love my children’s melanin…" Listen to Marvin reading 'Triptych', a poem response to a blue plaque in Brecon which honours a slave trader.
You may also be interested to read our recent PBS selections which have included new collections by a wide range of BAME poets, in particular Vahni Capildeo, Mary Jean Chan, Tishani Doshi, Kit Fan, Ranjit Hoskote, Bhanu Kapil, Zaffar Kunial, Faisal Mohyuddin, Alycia Pirmohammed, Srinivas Rayaprol, Ocean Vuong, Jennifer Wong, Jane Yeh, Jay G Ying and many more. We encourage you to explore the free samples of their poetry in our blog archives.
You can read our full statement of support here.