When did you start writing poetry and what drew you into it?
I started writing as a teenager, inspired by the poetry I was studying at school, as well as the varied poetic traditions I had been exposed to in my childhood. Poetry felt endlessly alive, a common thread that inflected the proverbs, vernacular, and music I had grown up with. It was a natural thing to fall into.
Please talk about your development as a writer of poetry. Tell us when you first felt you were a poet and how it went from there.
Joining development programmes was pivotal. Collectives also gave me the ability to experiment and refine my own voice. It was around other poets that I started to call myself one. That was the critical turning point: meeting other poets.
What does being shortlisted for the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection mean for you?
Being shortlisted is an unexpected, wild honour. With this collection, I was desperately writing my way out of a hole. To be recognised for that is a wonderful, heartening thing. It keeps you afloat.
Please tell us about the creation of your shortlisted collection, from first words to final book. Which poems in the collection are most important to you?
Bad Diaspora Poems was written over 5 years. For me, the writing process begins with theoretical tussling. I think through an obsession or a wound for a while, talking it out with others, opening myself up to how it reveals itself anew in my life. I stay sensitised. Poetry takes time to happen. All I can do is create and insist upon the right conditions for it when it arrives. “A Violet Coagulation of Dispersals” and the Pasolini suite are poems born of that approach.
Which poets do you admire most and what do you value in their work?
My answer to this question differs depending on the day. In reckoning with rupture, Kamau Brathwaite is a beacon for me. I often return to Akilah Oliver, Jack Spicer, Muzaffar al-Nawwab, and Jeremy Reed. I deeply admire poets who make me laugh
What is next for you as a poet?
I want to keep living a life that allows me to write poetry. More immediately, I’m exploring the poetics of autotheory, and seeing what I can do within that confine.
What advice would you give to anyone starting out in poetry today?
Read. Develop your own distinctive taste. Seek out the nooks poets hide in. Have a healthy skepticism of genres and groupings. Go where the terror is. Write for an audience you know you can’t deceive or impress.