by Jake Schneider, Editor in Chief
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. The sources of each poem are credited after it line by line, beginning with the title, using the writer’s first initial. 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 watch in full on the British Council Germany’s YouTube channel.
home: a kitchen that doesn’t exist anymore
There was an element of wanting
to see if I could swim in the pond,
punching holes into borders
and showing the traffic that traverses.
If you get the rhythm of a place, you get the sense of the place:
- piano keys uprooted like large teeth
- CCTV cameras ogling you with their cyclopean eyes…
(N, H, H, B, M, I, B)
freakalicious mother-ship logic
We are living in times
being challenged to
itemizing all stations
en route to final
Send me to San Francisco
for an injection.
Wherever I am, I am an outsider.
(B, S x 6, S x 3, H x 2, M)
a chubby samosa is a good samosa
We’ve always had a Sam here
and we always will.
You’ve shut the front door.
You’re in Grenada now.
(N, C x 2, M x 2)
misfits who tilled worlds
Q: That Mongolian poetry class made you go to Mongolia?
A: He doesn’t speak a word.
Q: When do you become a good immigrant?
A: The moment you pass border control.
Q: Are you a small country?
A: I am the human Valium.
Q: Who’s laughing? Who’s telling the joke?
A: A man without a donkey is a donkey.
(I, M, C, N x 2, I, B, N x 2)
currencies that can’t be seen with the naked eye
Your career choices were a doctor, a lawyer,
or a disgrace to the family.
You’re never a diminished part of yourself.
It’s still you.
I belong here.
We belong here.
(I, S x 2, N x 2, C x2)
B – Bernardine Evaristo; C – Catherine Johnson; H – Hari Kunzru; I – Irenosen Okojie; M – Malika Booker; N – Nikesh Shukla; S – Sharon Dodua Otoo