Written by Sophie Wyatt
The new Obsidian Foundation Collection at The Poetry Archive launches with a curated series capturing the voices and writing of seventeen exceptional poets. This digital, audio-visual collection of poetry and conversation explores the quality, influence and poetic lineage of contemporary Black poets. The Collection will be added to each year.
Poets selected for this new collection have a connection with Obsidian Foundation and include Yomi Sode whose new collection Manorism is being published with Penguin, Raymond Antrobus (pictured left), shortlisted for the TS Elliot Prize this year, Victoria Adukwei Bulley (pictured right), recently published by Faber, Rachel Long who leads Octavia Poetry Collective, Caleb Femi Winner of the 2021 Forward prize for Best 1st Collection Poor, and former young people’s laureate for London and Warsan Shire, whose poetry featured in Beyoncé’s film ‘Lemonade’ and debut book Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head: Poems is released by Penguin Random House in March 2022.
This new Collection compliments an existing library of celebrated Black poets which includes Linton Kwesi Johnson, Benjamin Zephaniah and Bernardine Evaristo.
Obsidian Foundation was founded in 2020 and hosts ‘The Retreat’ for Black poets. It’s led by poet and founder Nick Makoha with Roger Robinson, Dante Micheaux, Raymond Antrobus and Malika Booker. The Obsidian Foundation is home to an extensive network of poets that could be drawn on to curate this canon.
The collection will provide a high quality resource for Black poets to support their development, raise their profiles to new audiences and redress inequalities in the representation of poetry by Black writers.
The Poetry Archive was created to capture the voices of important poets reading their own work in order to preserve their uniquely valuable voices for future generations to research and enjoy. Alongside the poems, recordings of conversations between the selected poets will be available.
This new collection recognises the importance and relevance of the stories, social and cultural commentary and ideas that British Black poets bring to the UK’s poetry landscape and beyond. All the poems featured in the collection have been selected by the poets themselves.
The collection will be freely accessible for a global audience and partners for education, and a suite of resources tailored to primary and secondary students will be created as part of the project.
Nick Makoha, Founder and Director, Obsidian Foundation said: ‘Obsidian Foundation is a lighthouse for aspirational Black poets and so it’s an honour to be partnering with The Poetry Archive to curate this new collection. In selecting the initial seventeen poets we wanted to reflect the social importance of Black poetry while sharing contemporary voices that could resonate with everyone. The stories that are in the poems selected reflect a broad church of Black expression and add necessary nuance to the times we are living in. We look forward to working with The Poetry Archive over the next few years to expand the collection of living Black poets.’
Tracey Guiry, Director, The Poetry Archive said: ‘We believe poetry is for everyone, and we make our poetry recordings freely available so that visitors to our collections can hear how the authors read their own work. We make the highest quality recordings of the significant poets of the day so that, year by year, current and future generations can continue to hear these poems and experience the zeitgeist of the age through poetry. When a poet is developing it is crucial they understand their connection with the poetry canon surrounding them which paved the way for their work. There are fewer resources dedicated to the history and contemporary development of Black poets’ work and wanted to address this through this new Obsidian Foundation Collection to include recordings, interviews, interpretations, blog responses, academic responses and a timeline to build a ‘family tree’ of poetic lineage. Working with Nick Makoha and Obsidian Foundation was the natural choice for us to find the most interesting and well regarded Black poets in the UK today. It has been wonderful to experience their works and we will continue to work with Obsidian Foundation to invite more Black poets into the collection in the future.’
The seventeen poets that feature in the new collection are Caleb Femi, Chris Albani, Inua Ellams, Jacob Sam La-Rose, Jay Bernard, Kayo Chingonyi, Keith Jarret, Malika Booker, Momtaza Mehri, Nick Makoha, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Rachel Long, Raymond Antrobus, Roger Robinson, Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Warsan Shire and Yomi Sode.
The Obsidian Foundation Collection will be available on the Poetry Archive website from 18 February 2022.