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Award winning poet Yomi Sode chats about revolutionary love and Tottenham Literature Festival

Image: Photograph of Yomi Sode.

Nigerian British poet and performer Yomi Sode’s ‘thrillingly original’ debut poetry collection Manorism will be published by Penguin next spring. His production and breathe… at the Almeida Theatre dominated this year’s Black British Theatre Awards, winning four awards. He is the founder of BoxedIn, a poetry night held in Boxpark Shoreditch, and toured his one man show COAT to sold out audiences all over the country. Ahead of his appearance alongside Bernadine Evaristo at this year’s Tottenham Literature Festival, Run Riot managed to pull the poet aside to chat about his work.

Eli Goldstone: Hi Yomi. You’re headlining the Tottenham Literature Festival. Tell us what to expect!
Yomi Sode:
Expect an event that is chilled. The last two years have carried such seriousness and I want to create an atmosphere where we just crack some jokes and vibe. Right now, as we are nearing the end of 2021, I just want to create a vibe.  

Eli: What does this year’s theme of ‘revolutionary love’ mean to you?
Both are quite political. I feel like love can be a political act and to be a revolutionary takes courage, bravery and a vision to some degree of what the future looks like.

Eli: Your full-length debut Manorism is coming out with Penguin next year. Can you tell us about some of the themes explored in the collection?
The collection aims to explore a variety of things. I’m interested in the exploration of landscapes and how Black men/boys, in particular, adapt within different settings. I’m being vague (I know) as I just want folks to read and make of it what they will. I'm very proud of this work because I know what it's taken to this point.
Eli: As a boy, did you see yourself represented in poetry?
No, I rarely read poems when I was a boy, and to be honest I thought the norm was seeing white kids on TV and not seeing people like myself. Not to knock on the age door with this, but when I was younger, I remember me and my mum readying our plantain and eggs in time to watch Desmonds on Channel 4. Every week, this was the event!   

Eli: Who are the writers who inspire you?
Every time I answer this I upset more people that are not mentioned... I will say that I enjoy reading anthologies to discover new/old writers. I miss reading at the moment due to the intensity of it all.   

Eli: Tell us about the writers’ collective Malika’s Poetry Kitchen.
What a question! MPK really kicked off the crafting side of my writing. I admire the poets that met in Malika’s kitchen them many years back. It’s inspiring to see the tradition continue to welcome new writers, introducing them to new forms of writing, while feeling part of a community. Big up MPK.   

Eli: You premiered your play and breathe… at the Almeida this summer and it has now won a slew of Black British Theatre Awards. Tell us about the play and what your ambitions for it were.
The now multi-award-winning play! Wild. It’s important to note that and breathe… is a sequence of poems, adapted for the stage and I look forward to how these two worlds strengthen as we move forward. The sequence explores loss, guilt and the pressures of being the eldest of a younger generation. Ambition wise, I had none. I just wanted to work through a type of grief that had me quiet for numerous days.   

Eli: You’re an active member of the poetry community, performing all over the country and championing other writers. What’s your favourite way to spend time with yourself?
I enjoy the gym and training. I’ve made zero friends as it’s the only time I have to myself. I load up a playlist/podcast and I just take that time in. I also enjoy people watching from time to time. Building random dialogues from others. There’s something cathartic in it.

Tottenham Literature Festival
29 November - 5 December
Bernie Grant Arts Centre


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