Spoken Word column: 10 Poets for LGBT History Month
Eyup! To mark LGBT History Month, I’ve chosen 10 of my favourite LGBT poets who are currently active on the scene. These are poets whose work is exciting me right now: some of whom are fairly recent discoveries, and some of whom I’m lucky enough to have shared a stage with. It’s by no means intended to be a definitive ‘best of’ or anything like that. Just 10 voices that I want to champion. Enjoy…
Antonia Jade King
I can’t fathom how you could come across Antonia’s work and not instantly fall in love. Her poems tackle the loftiest subjects with incredible intricacy. They don’t wait around for you to make yourself comfortable, but they’ll do that themselves. Whether it’s womanhood, or family, or not quite fitting in, there’s an ode in there for all of us.
Antonia’s début pamphlet ‘She Too Is a Sailor’ is published by Bad Betty.
Ella is at the heart of the UK’s thriving and dynamic spoken word poetry scene. A producer, facilitator and activist as well as a poet herself, she’s enabling and encouraging change with everything she does. As well as being a member of acclaimed Manchester-based collective Young Identity, she’s also featured in Roundhouse’s Words First programme.
Ella was commissioned by Blue Peter to write ‘Zig Zag’ as part of Black History Month in 2020.
Born and raised in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn, NY, Emanuel’s back-story is as breath-taking as his body of award-winning work. After surviving child abuse and experiencing homelessness as a gay teen, Emanuel has since established himself as a leading LatinX LGBT activist as well as an esteemed poet, novelist, and editor. His poems give me goosebumps every time.
‘Selected Poems of Emanuel Xavier’ is published by Rebel Satori Press on 1 June.
You could comfortably stage a festival and programme it entirely with poets who’ve been influenced, inspired, mentored, or encouraged by Joelle. And not only that, it’d be international – welcoming a full range of nationalities, religions, races, ages, and genders. From her work with ‘SLAMbassadors’ to her lung-sapping poems, she truly is an artist that’s helped to define a generation in multiple ways.
Joelle’s collection ‘Songs My Enemy Taught Me’ is published by Out-Spoken.
I discovered Kai-Isaiah’s work in the summer and was immediately mesmerised. It explores belonging in every sense: in your skin, in your clothes, and in the world that surrounds you. Kai-Isaiah grew up in a working-class family in South London and is currently embarking on a flourishing modelling career whilst also being a poet and an activist.
Kai-Isaiah was commissioned by Vogue to write ‘A Love Letter to Black Womxn’ in August 2020.
Keith writes across a range of mediums – from poetry, to novels, to radio plays – and his work never fails to hold you captive. He writes with humour and musicality whilst also delicately handling some of life’s most complex themes such as race, sexuality, and religion. Whatever he’s writing about, you know it’ll take you on a journey and keep you coming back for more.
Keith’s latest collection ‘Selah’ is published by Burning Eye.
Born in Brazil, Patrizia lived there until she was eight before moving to Italy. She then moved to London in 2005, and within a few years, had started writing poetry in English. Her use of the language is illuminating, soothing, and exciting in equal measure. I first came across her work in the ‘Un Nuevo Sol’ anthology and am hoping for a collection to arrive!
‘Un Nuevo Sol’ is published by Flipped Eye.
Currently treading the boards (so to speak) in Travis Alabanza’s play ‘Overflow’, Reece first captured everybody’s hearts and minds at the Roundhouse Poetry Slam in 2018, in which she was a finalist. Her gloriously unflinching work is a source of empowerment and representation for a huge wave of trans and transitioning people around the world.
Reece’s poem ‘I Am a Woman And I Have a Penis’ at Roundhouse Poetry Slam Final in 2018.
Whilst himself being a UK National Poetry Slam Champion and a World Poetry Slam finalist, Toby also devotes himself to giving others a space in the form of Uni-Slam. His poems are wonderfully nostalgic whilst also confronting some of life’s major issues. His book is one of a handful that I revisit time and time again: witty, bold, and incredibly well crafted.
Toby’s début collection ‘Through Your Blood’ is published by Burning Eye.
One of the UK’s most trailblazing interdisciplinary artists, Travis is a poet who’ll enthral you at every turn. Their hit 2018 show ‘Burgerz’ was inspired by somebody throwing a burger at them and shouted a transphobic slur, and there’s been no stopping them since. Growing up on a council estate in Bristol, they began creating art aged 16 and first had poetry published in 2015.
Travis’ play-text for ‘Overflow’ is published by Bloomsbury.
Matt Abbott is a poet, educator, and activist from Wakefield. His début one-man show ‘Two Little Ducks’ earned 5* at Edinburgh 2017 and on a 2018 UK theatre tour. The show’s poems were published by Verve in 2018. His kids’ collection ‘A Hurricane in my Head’ was published by Bloomsbury in 2019.
Matt runs spoken word record label Nymphs & Thugs, fronts indie band Skint & Demoralised, and co-hosts Roaring 20s Radio on Soho Radio.