Caleb Femi (b. 1990, Kano, Nigeria) was London’s first Young People’s Laureate. He is a film-maker and photographer as well as a poet, and his own photos – of the places and faces of the North Peckham Estate, where Femi’s imagination finds its jumping-off point – are scattered throughout the pages of Poor.
Femi’s poetry both bears witness and celebrates resilience in the face of urban poverty; he describes it as ‘an endeavour to articulate the lives and times of my community of North Peckham’. This community included the murdered schoolboy Damilola Taylor, whom Femi knew, and to whom one of the central poems in the collection, ‘How to Pronounce: Peckham’, is dedicated. In an interview with the Guardian, Femi describes the contrasts of life on the estate: ‘The conditions of the estate — poor public housing, poor design — did have the knock-on effect of being quite dark. But the young people within it are joyous and full of imagination. They embrace fantasy.’
Forward Prizes History: