“Break into the forbidden.” —Aimé Césaire
On 5 June 2020, 'Break into the Forbidden' brought together poets from the UK and North America to mourn, witness, dream, nourish and celebrate black life.
Raymond Antrobus, Jay Bernard, Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Inua Ellams, James Goodwin, Bhanu Kapil, Canisia Lubrin, Karen McCarthy Woolf, Fred Moten, M. NourbeSe Philip and Nisha Ramayya gave readings for this online fundraiser for black liberation organisations and bail funds in support of justice and resistance movements in the US. If you would like to make a donation, here is a list of organisations and causes.
Raymond Antrobus was born in Hackney, London to an English mother and Jamaican father. He is the recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem, Complete Works III and Jerwood Compton Poetry. He is one of the world’s first recipients of an MA in Spoken Word Education from Goldsmiths, University of London. Raymond is a founding member of Chill Pill and the Keats House Poets Forum. He has had multiple residencies in deaf and hearing schools around London, as well as Pupil Referral Units. In 2018 he was awarded the Geoffrey Dearmer Award by the Poetry Society (judged by Ocean Vuong). Raymond currently lives in London and spends most his time working nationally and internationally as a freelance poet and teacher.
Jay Bernard is a writer from London. Their work is interdisciplinary, critical, queer and rooted in the archive. They won the 2018 Ted Hughes Award for Surge: Side A, a cross-disciplinary exploration of the New Cross Fire in 1981. Jay’s short film Something Said has screened in the UK and internationally, including Aesthetica and Leeds International Film Festival (where it won best experimental and best queer short respectively), Sheffield DocFest and CinemAfrica. Jay is a programmer at BFI Flare, an archivist at Mayday Rooms and resident artist at Raven Row.
Victoria Adukwei Bulley is a poet, writer and filmmaker. Winner of a 2018 Eric Gregory Award for promising British poets under 30, she has held residencies in the USA, Brazil, and the V&A Museum in London. Her debut pamphlet is Girl B, and she is the director of MOTHER TONGUES, a poetry, translation and film project exploring the indigenous language heritages of black and brown poets. Victoria is a doctoral candidate at Royal Holloway, University of London, the recipient of a 2019 Technē scholarship for practice-based research in Creative Writing.
Born in Nigeria in 1984, Inua Ellams is an internationally touring poet, playwright, performer, graphic artist & designer. He is an ambassador for the Ministry of Stories and has published four books of poetry: ‘Candy Coated Unicorns and Converse All Stars’, ‘Thirteen Fairy Negro Tales’ 'The Wire-Headed Heathen' and '#Afterhours'. His first play ‘The 14th Tale’ was awarded a Fringe First at the Edinburgh International Theatre Festival and his fourth ‘Barber Shop Chronicles’ sold out its run at England’s National Theatre. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
James Goodwin is a poet undertaking a PhD in English and Humanities at Birkbeck, University of London with a thesis on the blacksociopoetics of marronage, breath, sacrality and emanation. His pamphlet, aspects caught in the headspace we’re in: composition for friends, is forthcoming with Face Press.
Bhanu Kapil is a British-Indian artist and poet. She is the author of five full length works of poetry/prose, including How to Wash a Heart (2020), Ban en Banlieue (2015) and Schizophrene (2012). She is a winner of the Windham-Campbell Prize 2020 and is currently the Judith E. Wilson Poetry Fellow at the University of Cambridge. Her blog can be found at https://thesparklyblogofbhanukapil.blogspot.com.
Canisia Lubrin is a writer, editor, and teacher. Her work is published widely and has been frequently anthologized, including translations into Italian and Spanish. Lubrin’s debut poetry collection Voodoo Hypothesis, was named a CBC Best Poetry Book, longlisted for the Gerald Lambert Award, the Pat Lowther Award, and a finalist for the Raymond Souster Award. She was a finalist for the Toronto Book Award for her fiction contribution to The Unpublished City: Vol 1 and 2019 Writer in Residence at Queen’s University. Lubrin holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph.
Born in London to English and Jamaican parents Karen McCarthy Woolf writes poetry, criticism and drama. Her collection An Aviary of Small Birds was described as an ‘extraordinarily moving and technically flawless’ (The Poetry Review), ‘pitch perfect debut’ (Guardian) and was shortlisted for the Forward Felix Dennis and Fenton Aldeburgh prizes. She makes radio features and drama for BBC radios 3 and 4, and has presented her work across the world. Karen is currently a Fulbright Postdoctoral Scholar at UCLA where she is the inaugural Poet in Residence at the Promise Institute for Human Rights exploring how law and poetry can interact as complementary disciplines to express safe spaces in complex environments
Fred Moten was born in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1962 and raised there and in Kingsland, Arkansas. He is author of In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition, Hughson’s Tavern, B. Jenkins, The Feel Trio, The Little Edges, The Service Porch, and consent not to be a single being (published as trilogy, Stolen Life; Black and Blur; The Universal Machine). He is co-author, with Stefano Harney, of The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study, and A Poetics of the Undercommons, and with Wu Tsang, of Who Touched Me?. Moten lives in New York with his partner, Laura Harris, and their children, Lorenzo and Julian. He teaches in the Department of Performance Studies at New York University.
Born in Tobago, M. NourbeSe Philip is an unembedded poet, essayist, novelist, playwright and independent scholar who lives in the space-time of Toronto where she practised law for seven years before becoming a poet and writer. Among her published works are the seminal She Tries Her Tongue; Her Silence Softly Breaks and the speculative prose poem Looking for Livingston: An Odyssey of Silence. Her book-length poem, Zong!, is a conceptually innovative, genre-breaking epic, which explodes the legal archive as it relates to slavery. Her most recent work is Bla_K. Her fellowships include Guggenheim, McDowell, and Rockefeller (Bellagio). M. NourbeSe Philip is the 2020 recipient of PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature.
Nisha Ramayya grew up in Glasgow, and is now based in London. She is a poet and Lecturer in Creative Writing at Queen Mary University of London. Her pamphlets include Notes on Sanskrit, Correspondences, and In Me the Juncture, as well as Threads, co-authored with Sandeep Parmar and Bhanu Kapil. States of the Body Produced by Love is her first full-length book, published by Ignota.