Five Black poets to check out

The UK Spoken Word scene is full of incredible talent and, over the years, the Kent spoken word community has been fortunate to welcome some incredible performers of colour. Bookie Slam host, Connor Sansby, keeps his eye out for truly fantastic performers and has put together a list of some of his favourite young poets of colour who you should be following. Who knows, maybe the poets on this list will make an appearance at a Bookie Slam sometime in the future.

Thembe Mvula

I met Thembe back in the days when our friends at Wise Words ran the stellar GulbSlam at UKC’s Gulbenkian Theatre. From the get go, it was obvious that Thembe possessed an incredible way of telling stories, extracting vivid imagery and harnessing both vulnerability and strength to incredible effect.

The Repeat Beat Poet

RBP is one of the hardest working poets in the UK right now. Amongst his many hats, he is an emcee, broadcaster, curator and all-round trailblazer. His poetry combines the rhythmic elements of hip-hop, stream-of-consciousness writing and some social commentary that is frankly genius.

I’ve been lucky to catch him in more social contexts and he is an absolute gem. I cannot wait to bring him back to Margate someday.

Maggie Akintayo

The way Maggie writes about love is simply outstanding. Able to draw out beauty from the most carnal of moments, and the carnal from beauty. I don’t think it’s possible to listen to Maggie and not connect or lose yourself in her stories.

Those who have been involved in Canterbury poetry for a while will constantly put her on their top 5’s, and it’s not hard to see why. Even though we’ve been lucky to coax her back to Kent on several occasions, it’s not nearly enough.

Tyrone Lewis

Without a doubt one of the most acclaimed UK poets of the current generation, Tyrone racks up slam wins at a frightening rate – Roundhouse Poetry Slam Champion, 2017 Axis Winter slam finalist in the UK Farrago Slam Champions in 2017 and 2018, finalist in the Hammer and Tongue Slam Championships 2018 and current UK Slam Champion.

It’s easy to understand why though. In modern poetry, focus has shifted to accessibility – poetry, historically,  has been too concerned with beating you over the head with its education, trying to convince you it’s smarter than you are. Tyrone encapsulates this new thought phenomenally. He weaves pop culture the way others wield classics. After all, these are the contemporary frames of reference for the audience – what percentage of the public have a working memory of Greek mythology and how many have seen Star Wars? Perhaps poetry clings too tightly to it’s history and not enough to it’s contemporary.

It’s poets like Tyrone who have helped increase the visibility of poetry to the point where we’re pushing at the mainstream, where we’re in advertising, packing out theatres, pulling up thousands of views on YouTube.

Tyrone also works as a videographer, capturing moments from the UK Spoken Word Scene as Process Productions.

Colleen Laurent

Colleen has been one of the Kent scene’s best kept secrets, but it’s not going to be long before everyone else catches up. Over the last few years, Colleen has forged her name with multiple slam wins and podium placings at Your Bard, LicKittySpit and our POW! Slam.

Colleen is an absolute powerhouse onstage, with a marvellous control of rhythm and melody but what really catches people is her ability to connect. I’m yet to see her perform and not win over the room with ease. Her onstage persona isn’t all bells and whistles, it’s calm and measured – what you onstage isn’t a “poet” character, it’s a poetic human being.

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