The Anxieties of Being a Black Poet in Britain

Kei Miller’s blog is always interesting. I especially love the bit about ‘worrying the line’, although there is much here that breaks my heart.

Under the Saltire Flag

photograph by Marlon James photograph by Marlon James

1.

Some years ago, after a reading in Ireland, a major British poet wrote about me in a disparaging way in his own blog. He thought I had played the ‘race card’. I had read from a sequence of poems called ‘In This Country’. The poems explore a range of feelings a black Caribbean body might feel living in the UK for the first time – the unfamiliarity of the cold; the profound familiarity of spaces such as Brixton or Moss Side; the harsh acceptance that for all the loneliness of Britain it might indeed be a better space than the one that was left behind; the subtle and unsubtle experiences of racism. It was this last category that upset the major poet. To put it crudely, he thought I was being an ungrateful immigrant. Perhaps he dismissed me as yet another black poet who had…

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