Described as a rising star on the British poetry scene, Caleb Femi reads from his brand-new commission for Manchester Literature Festival and chats about his work with Bristol-based writer and performer Vanessa Kisuule.
This is one of a series of new Manchester Literature Festival commissions supported by an award from the DCMS Culture Recovery Fund and presented in partnership with the University of Manchester’s Centre for New Writing and Creative Manchester.
For the new commission, Caleb has explored the impact of solitude during the pandemic, touching on themes of the inner and physical self, friendship and joy, and imagination as a coping tool. This is one of a series of new Manchester Literature Festival commissions supported by an award from the DCMS Culture Recovery Fund and presented in partnership with the University of Manchester’s Centre for New Writing and Creative Manchester. After showcasing his new poems for the first time in this special MLF event as part of the festival’s spring programme (which also features poet Roger Robinson talking to Malika Booker and author Kazuo Ishiguro chatting with Jackie Kay), Caleb will be in conversation with Vanessa Kisuule, whose second collection with Burning Eye Books, A Recipe for Sorcery, came out in 2017.
Caleb Femi’s debut collection Poor combines poetry and original photography to explore what it is to be a young, working-class black man living in south London (specifically Peckham) in the 21st century, and is described by the Guardian as: “Restlessly inventive, brutally graceful, startlingly beautiful… a landmark debut.” It is one of only two poetry collections shortlisted for the 2021 Rathbones Folio Prize (the other is Rachel Long’s Forward Prize for Best Collection 2020-shortlisted My Darling From The Lions; the Rathbones overall winner is announced on 24 March) and the author Max Porter calls him “a poet of truth and rage, heartbreak and joy”.
Publisher Penguin says of Poor: “He contemplates the ways in which they [young black men] are informed by the built environment of concrete walls and gentrifying neighbourhoods that form their stage, writes a coded, near-mythical history of the personalities and sagas of his South London youth, and pays tribute to the rappers and artists who spoke to their lives.” On its release in November, the poet said of the new collection: “The excitement is on a next level. This is my baby, this is my love letter, this is years of grafting, this is all I have & I place it in your hands, be delicate with it & ENJOY it.”
Aside from writing, including poems for Tate Modern, the Royal Society for Literature, St Paul’s Cathedral, the BBC and the Guardian, and the liner material for Kano’s 2019 album Hoodies All Summer, Caleb is a director and has written and directed short films for the BBC and Channel 4. From 2016 to 2018, he was the Young People’s Laureate For London, he has been featured in the Dazed 100 list of the next generation shaping youth culture and he has even delivered a Peckham-related TED talk.
This online MLF event will be pre-recorded and captioned, and broadcast at 7.30pm on Thursday 8 April. It will then be available to watch for seven days.