Spoken Word column: Yorkshire Day 2021 poetry

Woman in font of microphone

Simone Yasmin

Unless I’m mistaken, Yorkshire alone is having a great time at the Olympics right now. And after watching a recent Micky P Kerr presentation on capitalism in football, I reckon a Yorkshire-born XI would do a decent job in the Football League.

But it’s not just sport where we excel. It’s most areas.

Yes, this might come across as some form of weird parochial tribalism, but it’s only a bit of fun for Yorkshire Day. We spend 364 days per year perpetually locked in self-deprecating modesty (if not an inferiority complex leading to self-sabotage, or is that just me…?), so, for this one day, let’s shout from the red-brick terrace rooftops about how great we are.

But not like the Plusnet Broadband guy. We’ve all had enough of that.

Here are five of my favourite Yorkshire poets right now, and if five isn’t enough, check out my picks for 2020.


Simone Yasmin


I first met Simone back in April, after Kirsty Taylor booked us to do a virtual gig for NHS workers. It was streamed online, but we were performing together in person, at a nightclub-turned-TV studio. Anyway, it’d been far too long since I’d watched somebody performing poetry in the flesh, and Simone utterly captivated me from start to finish.

She recently performed a guest slot at Nymphs & Thugs’ LIVEwire event as part of Leeds Poetry Festival and was even better. You could feel the entire room being awestruck by her presence, hanging off every word. Political, visceral, moving… the works.

Simone has a blog called Ethereal Truth, which is where you can also find her social links. She’s based in Leeds but discovered her love for poetry at a Bradford-based black history poetry slam called ‘Rapoetry’ in 2008. Truly a rising star in Yorkshire and soon to be beyond.


Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan


I first met Suhaiymah at a RAP Party event in Leeds way back in November 2018 and again, was completely mesmerised by her work. Through her poetry, her journalism, her podcast, and her educational work, she’s one of the most important voices in the UK right now, full stop.

She gained national (and international) acclaim as part of the Roundhouse slam back in 2017, when ‘This Is Not a Humanising Poem’ earned her second place and accumulated a tonne of views online.

I was extremely honoured to sign Suhaiymah to Nymphs & Thugs last year as part of the LIVEwire x Lockdown project, which resulted in her stunning collaborative piece ‘An Island of Sirens’ (above) being released as a single in December.

The video features a timelapse illustration from artist Alaa Alsaraji which follows Suhaiymah’s breath-taking poem about the refugee crisis and Britain’s postcolonial hypocrisy. Obviously, you should buy it!


Kayo Chingonyi


Kayo is a poet who I’ve known about for years, having first been introduced to his work by Joe Kriss of Wordlife. I only had the pleasure of meeting him in person when he performed at Nymphs & Thugs’ LIVEwire event at Carriageworks Theatre back in June, and it was well worth the wait.

The audience members all had to wear masks and were spread out for social distancing, but there was no mistaking the fact that they were utterly hooked, and for the 25 minutes that he read, nothing outside the room existed.

His latest book ‘A Blood Condition’ is shortlisted for Best Collection at this year’s Forward Prizes for Poetry and he’s firmly established as one of the most highly regarded poets in the UK today.

He’s currently based in Leeds, having spent a decent amount of time living in Sheffield, so he’s most definitely an honorary Yorkshireman!


Zodwa Nyoni


I was lucky enough to share a stage with Zodwa in Leeds back in December 2015. Her star has continued to rise exponentially since she came through the ranks of Leeds Young Authors. After cutting her teeth as a slam poet, she was mentored for several years by Leeds Playhouse.

Zodwa is a force of nature. As well as being a poet, she’s a playwright, dramaturg, lecturer, facilitator, and role model for countless budding writers; in the UK as well the US and South Africa.

I absolutely adore listening to her. She writes those rare poems that stay with you for days – insisting you revisit them again and again, discovering something new every time.

Zodwa isn’t a regular on the ‘spoken word poetry’ scene nowadays, as her work as evolved into so many different forms. So, if you ever get chance to see her performing her poetry, don’t miss it.


Haris Ahmed


I was first introduced to Haris’ work when he did an open mic slot at one of Nymphs & Thugs’ LIVEwire events at Hyde Park Book Club in late 2019. Kirsty Taylor was raving about him, and I could instantly see why – he has a rare ability to command stage presence and his words do it justice.

Haris was one of the poets commissioned by Fly the Flag as part of their World Human Rights Day campaign last year (above). His dedication to craft, to sharing his work through various mediums, and to performing in front of new audiences, is thrilling to see.

He also as a great ability to weave personal narratives about his life in Bradford with universal themes. I’ve been mentoring Haris through BD Producing Hub since April and am extremely excited to see what his next body of work shapes up like. Definitely one to watch.


Matt Abbott is a poet, educator, and activist from Wakefield. His debut solo show ‘Two Little Ducks’ earned 5* reviews at Edinburgh Fringe 2017 and on a 2018 UK theatre tour. The poems were published by Verve Poetry Press in 2018.

Matt’s debut kids’ poetry collection ‘A Hurricane in my Head’ was published by Bloomsbury in 2019. He founded Nymphs & Thugs in 2015.