LGBTQ+ voices in a luminous poetry anthology by Barbican and flipped eye

An anthology of intimate and personal poetry written by 23 new and alumni members of its Barbican Young Poets programme, published by not-for-profit indie press flipped eye publishing.

Articulations for Keeping the Light In explores themes of dreams and memory, as well as scenes of bliss, connection, sex and desire. There are also pieces that hold up a mirror to trauma, brutality, isolation, and the violent realities affecting us and the world now.

Edited by the programme’s Artistic Director and Lead Facilitator, Jacob Sam-La Rose, and poet and programme Co-Tutor, Rachel Long, the anthology includes new poetry written by Oshanti Ahmed, Esme Allman, Mandisa Apena, Rachel Cleverly, Courtney Conrad, Bella Cox, Geraint Ellis, Abena Essah, Rakaya Fetuga, Rosanna Hildyard, Minying Huang, Gabriel Jones, Kerrica Kendall, Rachel Lewis, Cia Mangat, Sarah McCreadie, Shanay Neusum-James, Tasmia Salim, Maeve Slattery, Matt L T Smith, Simran Uppal, Maggie Wang and Jinhao Xie.

The Barbican’s Young Poets are a cohort of 16-30 year olds, both new members as well as poets who have been part of the diverse group for a number of years. Now in its twelfth year, the programme’s ambition is to create space for poets to connect and build a community, while supporting the development of their craft and alumni from the programme include Eleanor Penny, Kareem Parkins Brown, Amina Jama and Laurie Ogden

Jacob Sam-La Rose, flipped eye Senior Editor and Barbican Young Poets Artistic Director and Lead Facilitator, said: “Barbican Young Poets is a programme that values a wide-ranging body of poetics, celebrating poetry both on the page and in performance with the intention of sidestepping that age-old dichotomy. The connection between flipped eye and Barbican Young Poets feels like a perfect fit, bearing in mind the principles the programme upholds in nurturing its participants and the strong track record of developmental work flipped eye has. This is a milestone in the programme’s history. “

Rachel Long, Barbican Young Poets Co-Tutor, said: “What a joy to witness the coming together of Barbican Young Poets and flipped eye – two powerhouses of poetry, both bedrocks of supporting and publishing exceptional writing talent. How exciting for the future of poetry in this country, and wider. The poems collected here are alive; electric, urgent, and capacious. They go beyond having their ‘finger on the pulse’ of now, they are it. These poets, and poems, wrestle with what now is, our current moment, and state, and they render it, carefully onto the page in such new and exciting ways.”

Lauren Brown, Creative Learning Producer, Barbican, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with flipped eye publishing on the Barbican Young Poets 2022 anthology. This new partnership brings exciting potential for the extraordinary work of our young artists to reach even more widely and be rightfully platformed alongside other exceptional poets in the sector.”

An exclusive edition of the anthology is published by the Barbican on 8th May, launched at a free poetry showcase in the Barbican Conservatory, with the main edition published on 14th July by flipped eye.

Sarah McCreadie is a poet, performer, and lesbian heartthrob from Cardiff, living in London. Sarah has performed her poetry from Newport to New York. She is a Barbican Young Poet, a BBC 1Xtra ‘Words First’ poet, resident artist alumni at the Roundhouse theatre and a former member of the Roundhouse’s poetry collective. She has also collaborated with Vanity Fair, ITV, and The Guilty Feminist podcast. You can find Sarah and her work on YouTube or on Twitter at @Girl_Like_Sarah

Barbican Young Poets 2022

Who are you and how do you identify?

I’m Sarah McCreadie, a poet from Cardiff and living in London. My pronouns are she/her.

How would you describe your poems?

I’d say my poetry is romantic, cinematic, provocative, tender and often very, very fruity. I reckon I write pop music poetry! I want my poems to make you feel the way that pop music makes you feel. I’m obsessed with musicality, rhythm and the poems sometimes even have hooks.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Sometimes the poem starts as a musical hook in my head or perhaps I’m trying to articulate a feeling and sometimes it starts with an image or something I see…I walked past a man in Brixton delicately picking daisies and placing them in a Cheetos bag – I knew I had to write about it!

What shall we expect from this poetry anthology?

You’re going to read some of the best young writing in existence! It is very gay, you’ll love it. All the poets in the book are these great storytellers and will tell you their stories in so many unique and beautiful ways. 

What do you enjoy writing about?

I love writing with radical happiness. I love writing about finding the romance in the every day. I write about things that move me and hopefully will move you too. Oh and I love writing about football!

Who do you admire?

Frank O’Hara is my favourite poet. I think it is brave to be that excited about life and of course, unimaginably brave to write about queer love back then. And I’d die on the hill that Taylor Swift is a poet – I find her writing moving and euphoric, I absolutely think she is one of the great storytellers of our time.

Are your poems auto-biographical?

Often yes, I really write from the heart and I absolutely wear my heart on my sleeve, with my sleeve pulled firmly up! I love writing stories about others too – though there is always a little bit of ‘you’ in there.

How would you describe the LGBTQ+ contemporary poetry panorama?

I think the LGBTQ+ writing landscape is brave and honest and brighter than ever – because we’re hearing and celebrating different voices now, from all different cultures and backgrounds. Our anthology is a great example of that – we have all these different stories of queerness, finding themselves through writing all the way to the page for someone to read and feel seen.

Abena Essah is a contributor to the Barbican and flipped eye anthology. Abena Essah is a poet, musician and creative of many hats based in London. Their practice often explores the intersections of their queer identity, Ghanaian heritage and reimagining/decolonising the lens with which black history is told. Abena has been published by Spread the Word, with Ink Sweat and Tears, South London Gallery, and Marques Almeida for London Fashion Week 2020. They are also an alumnus of the Obsidian Foundation and Apples and Snakes’ The Writing Room and the Roundhouse Poetry Collective. Currently, they are a Roundhouse Resident Artist.

Barbican Young Poets 2022

Who are you and how do you identify?

My name is Abena Essah, I am a poet, musician, playwright, actor and creative of many hats. I am pansexual and a trans, nonbinary human and my pronouns they/them.

How would you describe your poems?

I would describe my poetry as immersive and full of vivid imagery. I know I have connected with my poems and written something that feels done when I feel lost in the world that I have built. I often explore my Ghanaian heritage, navigating relationships, queer identity and the archive in my work.  Creating personal archives and reimagining historical archives through a black queer and decolonised lens is something I find myself further into time and time again. There is power is reclaiming black history and writing in the truth of a queerness that was always present yet ignored and attacked in a failed attempts to erase.

Where do you find your inspiration?

From other writers that I read or watch and from the writing communities that I am part of such as my fellow wonderful Barbican Young Poets. For me, I feel most challenged and take more risks with my writing when I look to how others carve and structure words, it pulls me out of habit and pushes me question and rethink ‘what is the best way to illustrate and tell a story?’. I also find inspiration from memory – I am quite a retrospective and reflective person and I find that so much can be gained from looking back to significant memories that influenced me as a person and stacking these memories or infusing them with surrealism to convey a feeling or capture moments in my poetry. I also find inspiration from history. I am very interested in uncovering Queer African precolonial archive and indigenous Pan-African spirituality. Through my research I found that that Pan-African spirituality and queerness come hand in hand and that being queer and African has always been synonymous. The theme of my source of inspiration is definitely community and learning deep lessons from memories and people who have come before me.

What shall we expect from this poetry anthology?

Emotion, a lot of emotion and excavating truth, reimagining history, rich heritage and food, playing with the surreal, envisioning decolonised worlds and complexities and nuances of love, relationships and community.

What do you enjoy writing about?

I enjoy writing about everything, I love a good free write and discovering what themes, what the subconscious wants me to tap into and write about next. I find that themes I am drawn to is my queer identity; as a nonbinary fluid human, the ways in which I navigate the world, learn about myself and lean on community is nuanced, thus there is so much for me to explore when I write about queerness. I also love writing about memories and love building vivid imagery in my work. The surreal and magic are also definitely elements that ever more present in my writing; it allows me to push the possibility of language and reality. I enjoy writing a lot about my homeland, Ghana, a place that lives so deeply in me always. And lastly, I enjoy writing about Queer African Ancestry, I like to excavate and reimagine archive through a black queer decolonial lens.

About flipped eye publishing

Founded in 2001 by Nii Ayikwei Parkes, an editor and award-winning writer, flipped eye publishing has won global critical acclaim, playing a key role in developing poets such as Inua Ellams, Malika Booker, Miriam Nash, Nick Makoha and Warsan Shire.

flipped eye publishes powerful new voices in affordable volumes. Recognised globally as an incubator for exciting talent, it is the original home of leading contemporary writers such as Roger Robinson and Nikesh Shukla.

flipped eye’s focus on cultivating potential and giving a platform to stories that represent a truly global scope of lived experience and literary traditions, literally “flips” the traditional mainstream, giving prominence to writers from all sectors of society and publishing the widest possible range of voices.

Working with a not-for-profit model since its inception, flipped eye is a lean, reader-focussed, writer-loving support system for culture that matters.

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About the Barbican

A world-class arts and learning organisation, the Barbican pushes the boundaries of all major art forms including dance, film, music, theatre and visual arts. Its creative learning programme further underpins everything it does. Over a million people attend events annually, hundreds of artists and performers are featured, and more than 300 staff work onsite. The architecturally renowned centre opened in 1982 and comprises the Barbican Hall, the Barbican Theatre, The Pit, Cinemas 1, 2 and 3, Barbican Art Gallery, a second gallery The Curve, public spaces, a library, the Lakeside Terrace, a glasshouse conservatory, conference facilities and three restaurants. The City of London Corporation is the founder and principal funder of the Barbican Centre.

The Barbican is home to Resident Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra; Associate Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra; Associate Ensembles the Academy of Ancient Music and Britten Sinfonia, Associate Producer Serious, and Artistic Partner Create. Our Artistic Associates include Boy BlueCheek by Jowl, Deborah Warner, Drum Works and Michael Clark. The Los Angeles Philharmonic are the Barbican’s International Orchestral Partner, the Australian Chamber Orchestra are International Associate Ensemble at Milton Court, and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra are International Associate Ensemble.  

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