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. 

Sode’s poetry is characterised by his elegant way of stitching together worlds, humour, cultures and voices, each poem a reminder that the uncomfortable moments have valid relation with the beautiful ones. Sode’s poetry captivates mostly because it is deeply aware and keenly welcoming of all nuances at the intersections of Black existence. It is a poetry that is as playful as it is direct, always ushering in the familiarity of Black livelihood with an openness that gives way to appreciation. Sode is a poet who understands the true potential of poetry and in doing so writes authentically, widely inviting communities on the outskirts of the poetry world to see their own reflections, stories and concerns in his words.  In 2019, Sode was deservedly one of three writers awarded the Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship. His highly anticipated debut collection ‘Manorism’ (Penguin Press UK) will be released in May 2022. 

‘The Door of No Return’ commemorates the march endured by enslaved Africans deported from the Port of Ouidah on the coast of Benin in the 17th century. Three sections map the stages of the journey, taking the captives further and further from home, until they are at sea heading to unknown lands. Physical and emotional trials are revealed through documented history – ‘And while they were waiting, I read, they were advised not to turn around.’ and the poet’s thinking on the heart and mindscape of those taken ‘Maybe a song aided: a melody that couldn’t be woken out of / sleep, could not be dragged, grabbing anything in sight to pull itself / out of harm’s reach. A melody in which one keeps. The only thing one / could keep.’. The poem also has recourse to re-imagine the outcome if help had been forthcoming from other-world sources – I’m wondering if the angel could have warned the slaves..’ and ‘Yemoja!… Were these not your children being taken?

The carefully crafted, far-reaching perspectives in the poem combine to enable a deeply moving account of the march and its consequences. In so doing, we hear and see what happened then, and how we can continue to remember.

Recording made on 24th September, 2021 at Spiritland Studio, North London.

Poems by Yomi Sode

The Door of No Return - Yomi Sode

Books by Yomi Sode



Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship

Prize website

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