Kayo Chingonyi

Lyric poet with a passion for music

Born in Mufulira, Zambia. Based in the UK

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Kayo Chingonyi is the author of two poetry pamphlets, Some Bright Elegance (Salt, 2012), and The Colour of James Brown's Scream (Akashic, 2016). He was Associate Poet at the ICA between Autumn 2015 & Spring 2016 and has held residencies at Cove Park, Royal Holloway University of London, and Nuffield Council on Bioethics. His first full-length collection, Kumukanda, will be published by Chatto & Windus in 2017.

Kayo is also the founder and editor of The Poetics of Grime - a blog exploring the poetic significance of grime lyricism.

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Kumukanda, 2017, Chatto & Windus

The Color of James Brown's Scream, 2016, Akashic

Some Bright Elegance, 2012, Salt Publishing

Extract: Round Midnight

Hour of bones singing a blues of cold
setting in, camp beds, vouchsafed mattresses
in overcrowded rooms. The lost growing old
in post-industrial towns, words in their heads
from the tongues of long defunct countries
and only these words in case they forget
where they were born, street names, all those sundries
that, in retrospect, amount to a life —
who stops to take note of the smell of trees
this leave-taking hour, turning like Edith
to commit a burning place to memory,
knowing, even in this harshest of lights,
what’s unrecorded is a reverie
faded in a year, gone in a century?

Extract: Broomhall

In light of what my aunt calls
the Arabic texture of my hair,
I’m Abdi outside the only shop
selling tamarind balls, Irish Moss,
Supermalt in decent quantities.

It is not enough to say I miss
the smell of cassava roasted
over open coals, expeditions
in want of Tilapia, Capenta,
assorted meats of questionable

provenance. How much, auntie?
Barter and bluff and rough hands
of stallholders glazed to a deep
blue shameless blackness that is
consigned, now, to another life

before this one of middle class
white boys in reggae bands, who
love roots and culture as if their
love is enough to know the code
that some of us live and die by.

 At least these boys who call me
Abdi seem to be fond of Abdi.
They ask why I don't come
round no more, what it's like
in Leeds and maybe, today,
I can be Abdi and this shop
can be all the home I need.