A touching, powerful and fiery new collection of poetry, inspired by the seminal The Fire People: A Collection of Black British and Asian Poetry, will be released on 19th May.
Page after page of More Fiya, a new poetry anthology curated and introduced by Kayo Chingonyi, is filled with poems of breath-taking breadth by new and established Black British poets. With experiences of individuals and communities spanning across the African diasporic community in Britain, the anthology is a melting pot of perspectives of poets with varied and unique positions within the United Kingdom. The poems redefine preconceived notions and compel readers to contemplate.
Popular and award-winning contemporary poets such as Warsan Shire, Yomi Ṣode and Rommi Smith feature in this anthology alongside other poets and spoken-word artists. There are innovative uses of form in Nick Makoha’s Pythagoras Theorem which breaks down the equation into three stanzas, and in Keisha Thompson’s Number 2020, which reflects on the year 2020, the online world we inhabited and the numbers which rule our lives. There is beauty, pain and resistance in the words of the poets, who draw on individual stories with universal parallels and implications.
The gorgeous hardback edition of these poems sees the work of poets and spoken-word artists on the page, celebrating, lamenting, and documenting Black life in its myriad of ways. Keith Jarrett’s My mother sings of how she got her education calls to the oral history of storytelling and poetry which inspires many of the poets in this collection. The collection’s final poem, Belinda Zhawi’s This Body Wants What It Wants, perfectly concludes an anthology of defiance, autonomy, and life.
There is incredible range in this collection, and there is something for everybody —poetry lovers, poetry newbies and everyone in-between — and especially for music lovers. As well as being a poet, Kayo Chingonyi is a DJ and author, and he describes the selection of poetry as his ‘dream mixtape’.
Chingonyi reflects on the accessibility of poetry in his introduction and how it isn’t a surprise that many Black British poets began and continue their careers in spoken-word and live performance. On publishing the collection, he describes the work as a ‘product of community, ingenuity and persistence in the face of overwhelming pressures to the contrary‘. Radical thinking runs through the ordinariness of life in these poems, bound together by blackness.
Canongate Books are also reissuing The Fire People, a collection first released in 1998 with a new introduction by the author, poet and broadcaster Lemn Sissay. His work appeared in this anthology over twenty years ago, and he re-introduces the collection. The Fire People contains poetry contemporary to the end of the 20th century and captures a moment in time. The writings of multi-disciplinary artists Malika Booker and Roger Robinson feature in both The Fire People and More Fiya. The 90s anthology also includes the work of poets who are now established and popularly known, such as Linton Kwesi Johnson, Jackie Kay, Patience Agbabi and Labi Siffre.
I imagine that in another twenty years, we will look back on More Fiya as a beautiful encapsulation of a variety of experiences that will be pertinent to their present moment as well as resonate in a future age.
More Fiya and The Fire People will be released on 19th May 2022.