The Geoffrey Dearmer Prize
Winner 2012: Kayo Chingonyi

Denise Saul. Photo: Naomi WoddisThe Poetry Society is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2012 Geoffrey Dearmer Prize is Kayo Chingonyi, for poems from his series, 'calling a spade a spade'The Geoffrey Dearmer Prize is awarded annually to the best Poetry Review poem written by a poet who doesn’t  yet have a full collection at the time their work is published in Poetry Review.

Kayo Chingonyi was born in Zambia in 1987, moving to the UK in 1993. He holds a BA in English Literature from the University of Sheffield, an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London, and works as a writer, events producer and creative writing tutor. His poems have been published in a range of magazines and anthologies including Poetry Review, Magma, Wasafiri, The Best British Poetry 2011 (Salt Publishing, 2011), The Salt Book of Younger Poets (Salt Publishing, 2011), Out Of Bounds (Bloodaxe, 2012), The World Record (Bloodaxe, 2012), and in a debut pamphlet entitled Some Bright Elegance (Salt Publishing, 2012). Kayo has also been invited to read from his work at venues and events across the UK and internationally. In 2012 he represented Zambia at Poetry Parnassus, a festival of world poets staged by the Southbank Centre as part of the London 2012 Festival. He was recently shortlisted for the inaugural Brunel University African Poetry Prize.

In awarding the Prize in Poetry Review 103:2, judge Jane Draycott commented: "Kayo Chingonyi’s vision places an intimate, edgy sense of the individual experience – uncertain, intuitively resistant to easy-reach categorisations (“some words in this argot catch / in the throat, seemingly made for someone else”) – dynamically and responsively in the pathway of historical developments in colour politics (“These days I can’t watch a music video / online without you trolling in the comments / dressed to kill in your new age binary clothes”). His language is wonderfully searching, his imagery a series of small doors opening onto a whole house echoing with harmonic play and set with delicate rhythmic trip wires. Out of settings we can’t fail to recognise (“dark means street / which means beast which means leave now for Benfleet”), ‘calling a spade a spade’ speaks with a highly distinctive voice." 

Kayo's poems were published in Poetry Review, 102:4, Winter 2012, guest-edited by Bernardine Evaristo. A new poem, ‘The Room’, was published 103:2 in celebration of his prize.

Kayo Chingonyi
(from) calling a spade a spade

 
The N Word

 

You came back as rubber lips, pepper grains, blik

you’re so black you’re blik and how the word stuck to

our tongues eclipsing – or so we thought – the fear

that any moment anyone might notice

and we’d be deemed the wrong side of a night sky.

Lately you are a pretty little lighty who can

get dark because – even now – dark means street

which means beast which means leave now for Benfleet.

These days I can’t watch a music video

online without you trolling in the comments

dressed to kill in your new age binary clothes.

 

The Cricket Test

 

Picture a cricket match, first week at upper

school, blacks versus whites, that slight hesitation

on choosing a side, and you’re close to knowing

why I’ve been trying to master this language.

Raised as I was, some words in this argot catch

in the throat, seemingly made for someone else

(the sticking point from which all else is fixed).

We lost to a one-handed catch. After the match

our changing room was a shrine to apartheid.

When I crossed the threshold, Danny asked me why

I’d stand here when I could be there, with my kind.

 

The italicised phrases in ‘The N Word’ are borrowed from the song ‘Get Dark’ by Mz Bratt 

 

About the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize

The Geoffrey Dearmer Prize was established in memory of Geoffrey Dearmer, who at 103 was the Society’s oldest member. It is awarded, through the generosity of the Dearmer family, to honour this noted World War One poet. Poetry Review is extremely grateful to the Dearmer family. By establishing an endowment fund, the Dearmer family has enabled the Poetry Society to award an annual prize to the best Poetry Review poem written by a poet who doesn’t yet have a full collection.

 

Read about the history of the prize.

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