You know, it’s not everyday you become a world champion in an artform you’ve aspired to since childhood. Yet, here I am as the UNESCO Cities of Literature Global Poetry SlamoVision Winner 2022! Eléyìí ni ǹkan yàtọ̀ gidi gaan, ẹ ṣé púpọ ooo!!

You can view my winning poem, cultural-appropriation rebuke ‘Strong Tea’ here:

You can also view the full event here:

I’d like to thank Khadijah Ibrahim for her inspirational session at Peepal Press Inscribe workshop leading up to the Weighted Words anthology.
Many thanks to Cara Thompson and all the Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature team for being so supportive and well organised! 
Special shout out to Matt Turpin for his helpful input and patience when recording the ‘Strong Tea’ video.

Here are a few related pieces:

(1) My feature article 'Crossing Poetic Lines' mixes 'Strong Tea' with G&Ts, looks at multilingual expression in the UNESCO poetry slam context and how much wordsmithing might in fact become lost in translation.

...In my jubilant G&T haze, the dream of my eight-year-old self to become a poet somehow felt more realised with this worldwide recognition. However, I couldn’t help but notice that, when the points came rolling in, the cities giving me the higher scores were mostly in anglophone countries, spurring the idea of my fellow poets’ non-anglophone creative talents possibly being lost in translation. Had my win therefore been tainted by English language imperialism as rapping poet cum academic Akala once put into Shakespearean context? Entrenched in the flurry of hearty hugs, I wondered if a lack of cultural and indeed lingual context had perhaps swayed the outcome of this ‘War Of Words’. After all, if a poem rhymes in one language, it would then lose its intended rhyme structure when translated into another, as well as the original rhythmic beat of the verses. Similarly, alliteration, homophones and other wordplay would disappear into the stanza stand-off ether. Was there really still enough poetic style choices for the judges to fairly adjudicate, eg. descriptive imagery, metaphor and simile use, extreme juxtapositions like within my lines: “To know your future, first know your past” and: “associate eastern herbs with West Yorkshire”? ...read more

(2) My solo podcast debut 'Poetic Artistry'. It touches on Nàìjá (nickname for Nigeria)'s oral tradition informing the spoken word genre worldwide, then gives tips on how to deliver poetry, combining the written, performing and visual arts.

Welcome to this podcast on Poetic Artistry looking at the creative spoken word form which has had an interesting journey through time. Finding your voice as a poet involves exploring content (what you write: enthralling topics with a consistent lingual register, or mixed tones inserting humour into hard hitting subjects if it works). It also involves exploring style (how you write: alluring alliteration, masterful metaphors, stimulating similes, jarring juxtapositions, overt oxymorons and more). But after those creative components are found, what’s involved in delivering your voice to an audience, holding their attention, helping onlookers hear your rhythmic recounting? It’s a question surely pondered by Griot speakers in my Yorùbá-Nigerian community and all over West Africa. Griots/Akọrin are the keeper of stories, living libraries steeped in the region’s oral tradition, and key to the origins of the spoken word genre. From the cradle of civilisation, it has since spread all over the world, its global reach now further channelled through UNESCO Creative Cities Network with international poetry slam competitions…which I happened to stumble on last year…listen here

 *UNESCO Cities of Literature Global Poetry Slam 2023: SlamoVision

Hey, I can’t believe it’s now almost a year since seeing posts for the 2022 UNESCO Global Poetry Slam ‘SlamoVision’ local heats in Nottingham…and feeling I was too busy to go along. Though one convincing nudge from a friend later, and next thing you know, I became the global champion and have been riding the high of international recognition as an accomplished poet with work published in various countries worldwide! This interview on Notts TV summed it up nicely (13:30 mins in).

So now it’s happening all over again! It really does feel like winning the lottery with that very apt tagline ‘it could be you!’ So I was happy to encourage other budding poets to unleash their inner wordsmith at this year’s local heats.

It was a huge honour to be invited to judge this year’s global entries from the other participating UNESCO Cities of LiteratureDublin (Ireland), Exeter (UK), Iowa (US), Kuhmo (Finland), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Manchester (UK), Melbourne (Australia), Québec (Canada), Reykjavik (Iceland), Tartu (Estonia), and Vilnius (Lithuania). What a collection of truly excellent poetic talent on display this year, many with multilingual deliveries that were proudly Crossing Poetic Lines. I was happy to therefore rigorously review the original language text and not just the English translations(!) 

Now we’re in the home straight. Alongside this year’s contestants, I’ll also be reading some new poems at the SlamoVision Grand Finale, taking place on Tuesday 5th December 20236pm at Metronome, Marco Island, Huntingdon Street, Nottingham, NG1 1AP. Get your tickets here, and get ready to be poetry slammed on a global scale!

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