For the last eight years, poet, performer and teacher Jacob Sam-La Rose, has chosen a class of young people, aged 14 to 25, to take part in the Barbican’s poetry workshop series.
On Wednesday, March 23, the class of 2016 – who studied with Sam-La Rose and assistant tutor Rachel Long – showcased their work in front a live audience of family, friends and members of the UK spoken word community.
From meditations on loss, to unexpected tales of migration told through a brief history of vinegar, to thoughts on forgetting great ideas, and passages inspired by film imagery. What follows is a sample of the young poets who laid their hearts bare, lifted hopes and urged those present to think deeper about the world today.
Victoria-Anne Bulley encouraged reflections on the self and society with her poem.
Followers of the spoken word scene may already know of talented Theresa Lola. ‘Psalm 151’, a poem about babies and what their wordless cries really mean (“they are trying to communicate with God”), caught the audience unawares.
Leke Oso Alabi’s poem, ‘Embracing the Spirit of ‘And What?’’, left listeners to ponder the loss of so many black faces with its weighty final words.
Amina Jama found her way out of ‘Examples of Confusion’ with her assertion that “warmth is in colour”.
Megha Harish sought to combine two of her favourite things, poetry and Scrabble, with her poem, ‘Mesosphere’.
Cameron Holleran took his performance to the stage floor, drawing chuckles of amusement as he recounted tales of awkward relationships.
Based on her personal experience of a GCSE course that was so bad she dropped it, Anna Kahn delivered her poem, ‘Three Physicists Walk into a Bar’, with comic timing.
Nicki Chua met course leader Jacob Sam-La Rose in her home country of Singapore. A year or so later, Chua was on stage to delivered her poem, ‘Kinetic’.
Raheela Suleman had a poem about something millions of Christopher Nolan followers everywhere have pondered: what happens to the spinning top at the end of Inception?
Tania Nwachukwu let loose a flood of emotion with her poem, ‘Uncreased’, about the day she discovered her grandfather had passed away.
Gabriel Jones lightened the mood with talk of embarrassing Best Man speeches and great expectations.
Eleanor Penny found an original way of describing the complicated debate about migration through a brief history of vinegar.
Shruti Iyer drew huge cheers for her poem “meditating on if I could stop writing poems”.
This image alone does not do justice to the profound delicacy Sarah Lasoye exhibited in her delivery of her poem about no longer being as close with her brother as she used to be.
Rena Minegishi, who said she had previously only shared her poetry with close friends, preceded her first love poem by emphasising how “indispensible”, both personally and creatively, she has found the Barbican Young Poets workshops.
Jacob Sam-La Rose closed the evening by encouraging the audience to share what they had seen and heard that night: “You’re not going to be taking home poets with you this evening… but you shall be taking home their words.”
You can download an anthology which includes poetry by all 25 of the 2016 young poets from the Barbican website (note: at the time of posting, the 2016 anthology is not yet available). The anthology is also available in limited print copies at the Barbican Centre itself.
This post is only a sample of the performances by the 2016 Barbican Young Poets. A full list of the poets can be found below.
Barbican Young Poets 2016
Alexia Kirov; Amina Jama; Anna Kahn; Cameron Bray; Eleanor Penny; Gabriel Akamo; Gabriel Jones; Jessica-Louise Dunne; Josette Joseph; Laurie Ogden; Leke Oso Alabi; Margaret Perry; Megha Harish; Michelle Tiwo; Nicki Chua; Raheela Suleman; Rena Minegishi; Sarah Lasoye; Shruti Iyer; Sunayana Bhargava; Tania Nwachukwu; Theresa Lola; Travis Alabanza; Victoria-Anne Bulley; Zahrah Sheikh.
Applications for Barbican Young Poets 2016-17 will open in July 2016. Find more via the Barbican website.
With thanks to Jacob Sam-La Rose, Rachel Long, Lauren Monaghan-Pisano and the 2016 Barbican Young Poets.
Images: Aaron Lee