Each of these poems consists entirely of quotes from the discussions and readings at the British Council Literature Seminar 2017 by the six talented authors who participated: Bernardine Evaristo, Catherine Johnson, Hari Kunzru, Irenosen Okojie, Sharon Dodua Otoo, Malika Booker, and Nikesh Shukla (each credited by the initial of their first name). The cento form necessarily takes people’s expressive words out of context – with the greatest respect for the larger, deeply personal and moving conversations, excerpts, and poems each quote came from, all of which you can watch in full on the British Council Germany’s YouTube playlist (below or here).
home: a kitchen that doesn’t exist anymoreN
There was an element of wanting
to see if I could swim in the pond,H
punching holes into borders
and showing the traffic that traverses.B
If you get the rhythm of a place, you get the sense of the place:M
- piano keys uprooted like large teethI
- CCTV cameras ogling you with their cyclopean eyes...B
freakalicious mother-ship logicB
We are living in times
being challenged to
itemizing all stations
en route to final
Send me to San Francisco
for an injection.H
Wherever I am, I am an outsider.M
a chubby samosa is a good samosaN
We’ve always had a Sam here
and we always will.C
You’ve shut the front door.
You’re in Grenada now.M
misfits who tilled worldsI
Q: That Mongolian poetry class made you go to Mongolia?M
A: He doesn’t speak a word.C
Q: When do you become a good immigrant?
A: The moment you pass border control.N
Q: Are you a small country?I
A: I am the human Valium.B
Q: Who’s laughing? Who’s telling the joke?N
A: A man without a donkey is a donkey. N
currencies that can’t be seen with the naked eyeI
Your career choices were a doctor, a lawyer,
or a disgrace to the family.S
You’re never a diminished part of yourself.
It’s still you.N
I belong here.
We belong here.C
B Bernardine Evaristo; C Catherine Johnson; H Hari Kunzru; I Irenosen Okojie; M Malika Booker; N Nikesh Shukla; S Sharon Dodua Otoo