New Country, Who Dis?

Inspired by ‘What’d I Miss?’ from Hamilton, I wrote this poem on the thoughts and feelings I had coming back to Britain in July 2016 after a month’s holiday in India.


How did the former-leader of colonisation
take a vote to declare its own independence?
Immigrant-reliant society
no longer a leading authority
made up of people from former-colonies
government in contempt of democracy
Britain’s all washed up, ready to forfeit
everyone knows we’re walking in corsets

there was once a time
when this country set the precedent,
the Brexit experiment
stupid as American decadence
reels of no deals in a one-party system

listen
I went to India
and came back to this,
switched the TV on
to see May’s new cabinet
one-way or no way like IKEA
no idea which way is up
whilst rolling through wheat fields
what Farage envisaged
as Blyton’s Britain
cucumber sandwiches and green fields

Photographer: Jamie Casap on Unsplash

but what awaits The People in this new place?
Farage, Boris and Mogg strawberry-lace faced
and The People respond with what the hell is going on?
we are ready to war for England’s soul
parliament and public in khaki enrolled
government plan is nothing more than authoritarian control

Spent four weeks in India, arrived to Heathrow’s political abyss
and the revelation of closet racists on my news feed
along with UKIP politics, ‘Britain First’ and ‘English Defence League’

What the hell did I miss?
“You’ve been gone a long time” (four weeks)

New country, who dis?

Calling Citizens Of The World (After ‘The Great Dictator’ By Charlie Chaplin)

So I wrote this poem inspired from a song I co-wrote nearly ten years ago (available on request) at Performing Room in Northampton.

Additionally, this is also inspired from the film The Great Dictator, written and directed by Charlie Chaplin and his speech in that film.

in 2016 my country split in two
48% voted stay the rest to leave the EU
in the wake of Brexit and Windrush
when we moan we’re told to hush hush

workers continue to suffer under the bourgeoisie
saving every coin so they can survive this austerity
men, women and children hurt and alone
many don’t have safe places they can call home

in halls of residence students sweat
whack to the knees crippled under government debt
you know these loan sharks in suits
playing judge, jury and hangman ready to drop the noose

these are images on a news reel
this history we’re living in now is sealed
it’ll be written with photo-shopped pictures
as you know that history’s written by the victors

you can see lies written into faces
discussion puts world leaders through their paces
they tell us what they want us to hear
but critiquing their actions fills their minds with fear

politicians thinking what they think is right
turning people against basic human rights
deporting British citizens and funding wars
street slabs acting as veterans’ floorboards

Photo Credit: T-Chick McClure on Unsplash

Black or White; Christian or Muslim; Gay or Straight
through othered visions the powers that be discriminate
destroying communities, minds and souls
they’re not yours not for corporations to own and control

Northampton, campus incorporated
degrees and education hyper-monetised…
Town Centre – litter-ridden, takeaways and charity shops
in addition to police on the beat and All Saints’ sighs

fake news, false media, forced slave labour
form systems that change narratives and model behaviour
it causes nothing but anger and distress
look at the world in protest and continuous civil unrest

like Goebbels and Lord Kitchener with propaganda
they use words and pictures to play on our anger
like Darth Vader they use the force to enslave us
using false media and stories to garner our trust

peace exists on Earth with the breathing and the living
not with us murdering those who are giving
don’t pollute the world with plastics and aerosols
pollute it with children who dare to be brave and be bold

humanity has been through so much pain
but those who’ve maimed must take responsibility
if they don’t things will never change
fix up and for once take some accountability

we should guide each other
like Indiana Jones in his quest to discover
one race – one people – one destiny
as we scout in pedigree and human history

Photo Credit: Annie Boilin on Unsplash

Citizens of the World, have your say
we’re not pieces in games chess for them to play
party politics’s been casting us in sin
boxing us based on gender, beliefs, race and melanin

those of you preaching what you think is right
turning people against basic human rights
experiences have given me perspective
it’s made me who I am and taught me to live

live in peace and your lives in tranquillity
live in peace and your lives in tranquillity
live in peace and your lives in tranquillity.


“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Stick It To The Man (After ‘Groan’ By Alex Levene)

I wrote this poem inspired by ‘Groan‘ by poet Alex Levene, which in itself is inspired by ‘Howl‘ by American poet Allen Ginsberg.

Alex Levene is a Bedford-based writer and poet who I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the stage with at SFP many times (a serious mega talent!).

I first heard ‘Groan’ at Soul Food Poetry Bedford in April this year and have since been writing a response piece to it.

So for six months I’ve been writing and editing this, detailing my own perceptions of creative writing and who my inspirations are.


I saw the greatest minds of my year group  destroyed by sadness – hysterical jaywalkers, burnt brazen, naked, lives laid bare

crawling their way through the social Middle Earths of Twitter and Instagram, looking for a million likes and retweets,

millennial media mongrels lusting for a human connection to the societies of open-air realities and sunlight, through text speak and Urban Dictionary

overdosing on hollow lies still high, sofa-sprawled students smoking in their custom-made sun loungers looking into their Mad Max-esque orange

haze screens, their incandescent tangerine shed-like space, killing each other for cash and capital in a scramble for power like it’s fucking Westeros.

Photographer: Robin Benzrihem on Unsplash

Now begins my song of praise
bless me with your righteous gaze.
I pray you’ll concede that this world’s future
depends on the arts, creativity and poetry.

Poems weren’t always in my peripheral view
but what better way to talk to you
and read in front of all these faces
as poetry transcends colour, creed, sex and races.

I once wanted to be a police officer, a cricketer, you know?
Now I write poems, using rhythm, rhyme, meter and onomatopoeia
striking academia full of fear in their weekend boats
sailing full speed ahead from Lands’ End to John O’Groats.

But I’ll stand tall, like the walls
between poetry and spoken word.
They’re one and the same, haven’t you heard?

Should I compare you to a summer’s day?
The war cry – the poet that slips into words
like Thanos and The Infinity Gauntlet,
the Mad Titan who takes centre stage and flaunts it.

And I write this poem for those who will listen,
who will take heed of my words and their composition,
who will comprehend the poet’s vision.
People hate to hear rhythm and rhyme,
as words can allude, confuse and hypnotise.
Conveyors of myths and magic, incantations
that summon beasts. Tales of Merlin and Mordrid,
the Druids, Arthur, Guinevere, their feasts and fights,
don’t let these poets on the open-mic tonight.

See, there are issues with poetry;
most switch off – it’s lyrical,
the pinnacle of most great songs is poetry.

Photographer: Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Way back in the day,
you’d read up on your Greek and Latin
bashing out odes and elegies
on bits of parchment
written with quills and ink.

But poetry has always been
for the people by the people,
a synergy creating a soulful energy,
sometimes read over the kitchen sink.

And the soul of creativity
has always been inside of us, in the heart,
regardless if that’s
poetry, prose, theatre or dancing in the park;

the poet is more than writing poetry,
it’s a mentality, it’s your mind-set,
life choices, your actions and your voices.

If prose is the bellow poetry is the murmur
in the corner people-watching
taking down each detail –
collecting everyone’s emotions and clout,
bottling it up and then raising it to a shout.

A howl, a growl, a snarl,
raging against the societal machine,
lies unclean, torn seams of childhood innocence.

And I will never cease rhythm’s use,
it’s not might fault. Blame Roald Dahl,
Spike Milligan, and Dr Seuss… and
“Augustus Gloop Augustus Gloop
The great big greedy nincompoop
Augustus Gloop, so big and vile
so greedy, foul, and infantile.”

Okay, I took that, but wasn’t it
Picasso who said, “Good artists borrow,
great artists steal?” – I think,
and these writers moulded my youth.

Poetry catches, snatches, captures, enraptures,
not just the town crier on stage proclaiming his love –
not just hope in the form of a holy white dove
but it’s a state of mind, a passion… it’s a want,
a hunger, a message, sometimes
a polemic attack against systems, governments
and institutions that manipulate and fashion.

Photographer: Manasavita on Unsplash

For me, my Creative Writing degree was not a choice,
it was a chance for me to express myself and use my voice.

Every writer who has put pen to paper,
or finger to keyboard
was saving their sword for you to wield later.

I discuss race, class, politics and mental health,
children’s literature and capitalist wealth,
and the mysteries of my family tree,
stories of slavery and immigration
as I don’t know how I came to be me.

Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas, or tried to,
like how Stalin banned poetry and the Nazis believed
poetry came from the hands of the Jews.

The weapon that kills the fascists is not the gun or the sword,
it’s the lyrics, the bold art of playing with words from a chessboard.

Protest and politics is where it begins
friends and experiences poeticised in the form of a hymn.

From reggae through to science,
The Isaacs (Newton and Gregory),
you can’t lock them up in the speech penitentiary.

Agard, Zephaniah, Sabrina Benaim, Margaret Atwood
AM Pressman, Neil Hilborn, Olivia Gatwood,
writers who change our perspectives for common good.

Byron, Shelley, Kerouac, Ken Kesey, Larkin
Sylvia Plath, Blake, Grace Nichols, writing mages
it’s the artists’ job to rattle society’s cages.

Sassoon, W.H. Auden and Wilfred Owen,
Alfred Lord Tennyson, the internet and Google search
David Olusoga, Reni Eddo-Lodge and Afua Hirsch.

Photographer: Kinga Cichewicz

Ginsberg, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, and Jill Scott
talking about their experiences on the streets
as we learn of The Harlem Renaissance, the 60s and the Beat.

Shakespeare, Derek Walcott, Steve Smith,
Wordsworth, the Bobs (Dylan and Marley),
Naomi Shibab Nye and Thomas Hardy.

I implore you all to read as much as you can,
write your spoken words and stick it to The Man!

Smile

I’ve become synonymous with historical poetry but that’s not all I write about; I do attack different subjects, including mental health.

That’s what this poem is about. Mental health problems can sneak up on the best of us and this poem is a few thoughts on trauma.


People don’t give Black boys enough credit.

Even now at 22 I’m still studying and the last time I studied a positive Black person was when my schoolteacher told us about David Harewood as Othello.

That was ten years ago in 2008, a long time, long enough;

ten is the Capricorn Zodaic sign;

is highest score at a poetry slam;

ten years (plus two) is the difference between my brother and I;

is the difference between boy and man;

was when I first fell in love with the song ‘Son of Man’, in Tarzan.

Photographer: Dean Ward on Unsplash

I was reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower (love it). I was walking home one night and was thinking how White and hetero-normative young adult fiction is.

It might not seem like much, but it’s about seeing yourself reflected and not as someone else’s crutch.

I view reading as breathing and when I read I frown; when I’m in photos I find it hard to smile (on demand). I’m sad, and deep in thought.

I’m always down.

People tell me to smile.

Strangers telling strangers to smile.

Sweet old ladies that mean well saying:

“You’re too young to look this sad. Smile, sweetheart.”

Grandparents saying:

“Be happy. Just feel better.”

Weird, isn’t it? Telling someone you don’t know / those you do to look happy and feel better, treating depression like a headache.

Photographer: Taylor Grote on Unsplash

A smile takes one muscle more than punching someone in the face, that last one is what those who look like me are synonymous with.

Violence. Shedding more blood than tears.

Tantrums over thoughts –

ideas left hanging from a noose, swaying in the wind at the top of Empire State, contemplating jumping from the Golden Gate.

Knives through veins and vital organs, trying to take on something you know is bigger than you could ever vanquish.

Something that has killed plenty before and will kill plenty after; because if there is no attempt you lose the at least you tried speech.

Don’t tell people with depression to smile, because they might still be trying to scrub the trauma, a confession more holy than sin.

Scrubbed with boiling water – tap water, bottled water, holy water, it all flows under the bridge. A boat sailing to the slaughter.

Photographer: Aaron Blanco Tejedoro on Unsplash

Don’t tell Black boys to smile. Compliment, maybe – don’t demand.

Allow the contrast to funnel through, and if he does want to force a smirk, he will do it of his own volition, not at the behest of you –

with someone he can feel vulnerable with,

not some plastic grinned,

fish-eyed nice guy (or girl)

who finds the frown as scope to blame the victim.

He might have a good reason to be sad;

could be overcoming grief;

could still be in shock after a recent event

or he simply needs a good reason to smile.

It is not your mouth and they’re not your lips.

Not yours to find solace in

when the windows crash and shatter from the storm outside.

When your cardiac muscle crashes around your moneybox

like seeds in dry soil refusing to grow without moisture or sunshine.

And if you really want a sad boy to smile,

a Black boy to smile,

a grieving man to force a grin,

to wither in sin despite the depression they’re in –

talk to him until  you’re hit by

the blunt force instrument of mental health,

until to them it smells like flowers and not a graveyard,

until they re-open historic wounds to find roses and not a corpse.

Photographer: Nikita Tikhomirov on Unsplash

I am not yours to tell to smile;

if you keep saying “smile”, no one will ever want to.

And if you get too close,

you might get bitten and the victim will smile red.

Privilege

I wrote this poem inspired from my schooldays and my reflections on that now as an adult, and its related connotations.

Also, this poem talks about how discrimination can happen between privately-educated / state-educated people of the same ethnicity.

This poem was deeply-inspired by ‘Privilege’ by Lacey Roop. She’s a slam poet and author poetry collection And Then Came the Flood


At fourteen, I was educated with the children of the rich and entitled.

At lunch I sat with them – children who lived in big houses.

Honestly, I disliked most of them. I didn’t want to be one of them.

My mom was a teacher, my father worked in IT.

The parents of these children were lawyers and businesspeople.

In other words, they sold lies for a living; however, like my colleagues, I never knew the meaning of without or hungry.

Some of the friends I made at school were people who had never encountered people of colour before – other than those they saw on television.

I grew up around people who had names like Seonai and Winston and Darius and Precious and Paris and Isaiah.

And they grew up with people who had names like Mary-Kate, Anna-Grace, Elizabeth-Anne, Tom-Harry and John-Paul.

Photographer: Matt Lamers

By today’s standards, they’d be known as progressive white folks who had more money than they knew what to do with.

They were the offspring of people who felt uncomfortable around someone like me, a child – whose last name wasn’t Jones or Smith, whose skin tone was a shade too dark, too dug up earth for their white picket fence.

One time, I was invited to a party. Drugs and underage girls littered it like confetti. The houses of lawyers and CEOs and surgeons, people who had inherited everything they owned.

When other Black people here how I talk, they question who I am. They question my ethnicity and identity.

Just because when I spill the heart contents of my chest, they ask if I am really Black. Because I talk too well for this colour.

As if my blood is not infested with the same slave plantation mud as theirs. I do not hate my skin but I’m often ashamed of those who share the same melanin as me.

Judging me on my RP and how I was raised, not what I say or how I behave. I hear people say, “If you know better than do better.”

This is why I can’t gawk from the side lines when I see Black people putting each other down. When I see colourism dividing us by our different shades of brown.

Black Privilege is feeling the bitterness of other people who look like me. This private school childhood is being the token Black.

It’s knowing my mouth is more bulletproof than Charlottesville which is why I use this mouth loud, even in the face of that bitterness.

To keep certain ears attuned to “You know better so be better.” For my eyes to be whitewashed and imperialised. Black privilege is a fiction, a fantasy.

It’s the assumptions people make because they hear my softly-spoken syntax – this relaxed tone of voice. This privilege-sounding tongue-tied man subverting stereotypes.

It’s the judgements we take without thinking. I was stop and searched by police for simply blinking… wrong place wrong time.

Having privilege is never having to think or talk about it. I’m always thinking and talking about it.

And if we all have voices to use, why on Earth should we stay silent?