This living and evolving digital and audio-visual collection explores the quality, influence and poetic lineage of contemporary Black poets in the UK.
This collection is a collaboration between The Poetry Archive and the Obsidian Foundation to recognise the importance of the inspirations, stories and social and cultural commentary that British Black Poets bring to the UK's poetry landscape. All the poems featured in this collection have been selected by the poets themselves.
The collection provides poets, teachers and visitors everywhere with an exceptional resource. It will introduce new poets and raise their profiles amongst new audiences.
This permanent collection will continue to grow into the future as the Obsidian Foundation continues its work to develop new poetic voices. We know you will love these voices and celebrate the joy and inspirations to be found here.
It is no surprise that Muneera Pilgrim won the 2018 Ann Kaloski Naylor award for Adventurous Writing - for ‘adventurous’ is exactly the word that springs to mind when hearing her poetry. Founding member of Nana collective and Artist Associate with The English Touring Theatre, Pilgrim herself seems to embody the themes at the heart of her work; to bring together and to forge new pathways. Pilgrim’s writing often plays with the tension between modernity and tradition. When They Speak of Muslims provides a celebration of contemporary Muslim Britain, walking the fault line where urban British life and Islam mesh. It advocates for the right of young Muslims to be cheesy, to be messy, to be human, laughing in the face of the British middle-class desire to condescend.
Kayo Chingonyi was born in Zambia and moved to the UK at the age of six. A poet, producer, DJ, and critic, his talent was nurtured on The Complete Works mentoring scheme initiated by Bernardine Evaristo to foster equality and excellence in British poetry. His first full-length collection, Kumukanda - 'the name given to the rites a young boy from the Luvale tribe must pass through before he is considered a man', was published by Chatto & Windus in 2017. It won the Dylan Thomas Prize, a Somerset Maugham Award, and was shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Prize. It was also shortlisted for the Jhalak Prize, the Roehampton Poetry Prize, the Seamus Heaney First Collection Prize, and a Ted Hughes Award. His second collection, A Blood Condition (Chatto & Windus), 'a hymn to the people and places that run in our blood', was published in 2021. It was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot, Forward, and Costa Poetry Prizes.
We're delighted to announce that Malika Booker has now been added to the Poetry Archive, as part of The Obsidian Collection in collaboration with Obsidian Foundation. Malika Booker is a much-loved figure in British poetry. Known for her dexterity in both the written and the spoken word, Malika is the author of ‘Breadfruit’ (Flipped Eye Publishing, 2007) and ‘Pepper Seed’ (Peepal Tree Press, 2013), which was longlisted for the 2014 OCM Bocas Prize and shortlisted for the 2014 Seamus Heaney Centre Prize. More recently, she has won the 2019 Cholmondeley Award and the 2020 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. As part of The Obsidian Collection two of Malika's poems, 'In Memory of Herbert Morris' and 'Nine Nights', have now been added to the Collection.
Momtaza Mehri is a Somali-British poet and essayist. She grew up in the Middle East and is currently based in London. She began writing poetry for publication in 2014. Her work has appeared in the likes of Granta, Artforum, The Guardian, BOMB Magazine, and The Poetry Review. She is the former Young People’s Laureate for London and columnist-in-residence at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Open Space, as well as a Frontier-Antioch Fellow at Antioch University. In 2018 she was the co-winner of the Brunel International African Poetry prize, and in 2019 she won the Manchester Writing Prize. Her latest pamphlet, Doing the Most with the Least, was published by Goldsmiths Press.
Yomi Sode is a greatly celebrated and vitally needed voice in the UK’s poetry scene. Born in Oyo State Nigeria, his entry into the world of storytelling came in the form of musicality, a quality easily witnessed in his approach to brilliantly paced and finely woven stories. It seems Sode has always been a poet as much into entertaining, with the relentless rhythms of his writing, as he is into educating, with poems that stare directly into societal failings with lyrical ease. Sode has performed his poetry widely including opening for Saul Williams and The Last Poets, appearances at Yahoo! Wireless Festival, Latitude, Lovebox, Olympic Village, Sadler’s Wells Theatre and working with Channel 4 and BBC Radio 1Xtra. His commissioned work includes The Mayor’s Office, BBC World Service/BBC Africa to name a few. Beyond this, his ability to gather and cultivate space for storytelling manifested in the form of BoxedIN, a free and lively poetry night at Shoreditch that Sode founded in 2012.
St. Paul’s Festival
When They Speak of Muslims
Skin A Cat
The last night of my 20s
The Colour of James Brown’s Scream
Guy’s and St Thomas’s
How To Cry
Some Bright Elegance
In Memory of Herbert Morris
A Comparative History of Fire
Fluke by Any Other Name Is a Flight Number
The Door of No Return
“The stories that are in the poems selected reflect a broad church of Black expression and add necessary nuance to the times we are living in.”
- Nick Makoha, Founder and Director, Obsidian Foundation
In Memory of Herbert Morris
By Yourself Boy… (1988 – 2007)
Ghana by Air
Guerilla Garden Writing Poem
Afterword, London 2020
Outside St Dominic’s Priory: Snapshot, July 2015
“We believe poetry is for everyone, and we make our poetry recordings freely available so that visitors to our collections can hear how the authors read their own work.”
- Dr Tracey Guiry, Director, The Poetry Archive
I Ran Away from Home to see how long it’d take my Mother to Notice - Raymond Antrobus
In Memory of Herbert Morris
Hotel Art, Barcelona
I’m good but I’m not red
Why can’t a K be beautiful and magick?
For Tyrone Givans
The Long Duration of a Split Second
I Ran Away from Home to see how long it’d take my Mother to Notice
A Gimbal of Blackness
Half a Lime
Ghetto Van Gogh
The Child God of Chaos
Nii Ayikwei Parkes
Victoria Adukwei Bulley
"To archive poems that may speak to current or younger generations of writers feels incredible. I’m thankful to join a list of iconic figures who inspire me to craft my work to the best it can be."
- Yomi Sode, Poet
This collection will continue to evolve as we work in collaboration with the Obsidian Foundation to add work by British Black poets.
More about the Obsidian Foundation
Obsidian Foundation was founded in 2020 and hosts The Retreat for Black poets. It’s led by poet and founder Nick Makoha with Roger Robinson, Dante Micheaux, Raymond Antrobus and Malika Booker.
The Obsidian Foundation was established in 2020 to create a community of Black creative poets and provide a place for them to express themselves with freedom. A one-week retreat will be held annually for Black African, Caribbean, Afro-Latinx and African-American heritage, including those of mixed-Black heritage poets who want to advance their writing practice. Participant poets have five years to attend three Obsidian retreats, after which they become Obsidian Foundation alumni.