It’s day whatever of being locked indoors and you might start to feel as if you’re a deranged Big Brother housemate after someone just drunk all the wine. You need something to get yourself relaxed, calm and rejuvenated. One way you can do this is by plugging your headphones in and shutting the world out for a short while. Though you should put the podcasts down for a bit and press pause on that *leaked* new Dua Lipa album just for now, because it’s world poetry day!
The new poetry age is one that is raw, honest and feels ever so vital to the now. Voicing their concerns of today and hopes for tomorrow, London, in particular, is home of some of the finest poets around. One of them is Kai-Isaiah Jamal, who you can find in the pages of our 20th-anniversary issue. “I have always enjoyed language. Having a quick mouth meant I always had to get myself out of things quickly,” says Kai. “So I learnt loads of words, experimented with them, explored the format of language and arrived at poetry. It happened organically and naturally which is why I think I can retain my love for it even as a work practice.”
Jamal certainly has the gift of the gab, and to mark world poetry day has teamed up with Browns Fashion to launch his latest project Somewhere, We Dance Forever. “I was exploring my gender identity at the time. Testosterone was changing my body and I was transitioning into new state of — for once, loving the shape my body was taking,” he explains.
In a film directed by Emily McDonald, Jamal speaks of the freedom he discovered through the genderless movement of dance. “It was important for me to document with lensed by the euphoria of the trans experience, which we are so rarely shown,” he says. Jamal uses this empowering piece to focus on the visibility of trans bodies through a joyous narrative. Jamal goes on to explain: “clothes also come into a big part of gender identity and experience, Browns was the perfect partner to depict this throughout the wardrobe and dressing of the visual.”
What’s his advice on celebrating world poetry day in lockdown? “Find your poet or poem- everyone will have one.” Some of Jamal’s own key influences include Travis Alabanza, Jasmine Mans and Lee Mokobe. Now’s the perfect time to try picking up the pen as well: “Write a poem, challenge yourself to a haiku or a stanza, abstract topics and create strange titles. I guess the idea is just to write, something will come and something will happen.” Watch the film, get inspired and there’s plenty of slick dance moves you can learn along the way.
by Paul Toner
Film directed by Emily McDonald. Photographs by Christos Geoghegan.