Jacob Sam-La Rose
For it to exist in the real world, my work has to be bigger than myself.
About Jacob Sam-La Rose
Jacob Sam-La Rose (born 8th June 1976) is a poet, educator and editor. His enthusiasm for using poetry as a tool for education and interaction has made him a renowned and inspirational figure in the poetry and educational communities alike. As a consultant for creative writing and literature, Sam-La Rose has run workshops and held residencies internationally at hundreds of schools and other institutions, and has facilitated programmes for poets and writers of all ages. He is particularly well known for his work with youth 'slam' poetry initiatives, and his advocacy for the positive impact of new technology on literary practice and collaboration. He has led workshops at Botswana University, for the Ministry of Education in Malaysia, and has developed spoken word programmes with organisations such as the British Council, the National Theatre, the Arvon Foundation, the Roundhouse, the Barbican, and Apples & Snakes. His level of involvement in and commitment to these projects has resulted in his being described as “a one-man literary industry…passionate about poetry and its power to change people’s lives.” (Patrick Neate)
An admired poet and performer, Sam-La Rose has appeared at a wide range of venues and festivals, including Kiasma (Finland), the Centre of Contemporary Art (Glasgow), London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Aldeburgh Literary Festival, the Gwendolyn Brooks Writers’ Conference (Chicago), and The URB Festival (Helsinki). His poems have been published in Identity Parade – New British & Irish Poets; Penguin’s Poems For Love; I Have Found A Song; Learn Then Burn: The Ultimate Poetry Guide for the High School or College Classroom; and Michael Rosen’s A-Z: The Best Children’s Poetry from Agard to Zephaniah, among many other anthologies and journals. His first pamphlet Communion was a Poetry Book Society selection in 2006, and was described by the judges as “fresh, vivid and masterly in its evocation of contemporary Britain”, and as “a thoughtful, pensive and carefully structured collection, where the finest poems quietly but firmly capture relationships in all of their tenuousness, tenderness, disappointments and promise” by Lauri Ramey. His work is grounded in a belief that poetry can be a powerful force within a community, and has united in praise the sometimes divided strands of ‘performance’ and ‘page’ poetry, proving it is possible to combine the immediacy of performance with the rigor of poetry on the page.
He has described himself as the product of a post-colonial Caribbean work ethic passed down from his mother, something that has morphed into his own rigorous professional drive. “My work as a poet came to mean more than just being the best writer I could be. For it to exist in the real world, my work has to be bigger than myself, in the same way that so many of my elders worked for the benefit of future generations – and so it extends into changing mainstream attitudes towards poetry, and helping to nurture other emerging poets.” It is this generosity of spirit and collectivist outlook that sets him apart from many other poets and performers – Sam-La Rose is an active, participatory force in the literary world whose dedicated efforts to include young people in the practice and possibilities of poetry have touched many.
In this recording for the Poetry Archive, Sam-La Rose's understated yet forceful poetic gifts are brought to the fore by a reading style that is measured, intimate and concise. The poems are highly articulate constructions with an elegant sense of phrase, and a considered, reasoning tone, which steers language towards various emotional truths, realising the logic of genuine and nuanced feelings, often particular to the contemporary era. Sam-La Rose achieves this via virtuosic leaps and image-making, in work that is consistently generous and surprising.
Sam-La Rose's collection Breaking Silence was published by Bloodaxe in Autumn, 2011.
Jacob Sam-La Rose's Favourite Poetry Sayings:
"I do believe poetry changes the world: it changes the world by changing the way we think about the world." – Kathleen Graber
"Any intention of writing poetry beyond the most basic aim to make a poem, of engaging the materials, SHOULD be disappointed. If the poet does not have the chutzpah to jeopardize habituated assumptions and practices, what will be produced will be sleep without dream, a copy of a copy of a copy. The poem always intends otherwise. At every moment, the poet must be ready to abandon any prior intention in welcome expectation of what the poem is beginning to signal. More than intending, the poet ATTENDS! Attends to the conspiracy of words as it reveals itself as a poem, to its murmurs of radiant content that may be encouraged to shout, to its muffled musics there to be discovered and conducted." – Dean Young
"Can you do that? Can you just plug in some made up thing and end up with solutions? Can you simply draw some imaginary lines and end up with a better map? You don’t expect to be acclaimed as a great scientist until you discover something, something big and useful, but shouldn’t this something have to be real? Let’s jump ahead 125 years. It’s 1922 and Ludwig Wittgenstein has just published his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus which insists, among other things, that the limits of my language mean the limits of my world. Or, put another way: how you say it is how you think it. And, more dramatically: if you can’t say it, you can’t think it. And, if you can’t think it, how can you solve it?" – Richard Siken