George Moore is lying on a desert bed








DESERT BED

 

 

The alkaline white histories are as permanent as anyone gets, bone
pure, salt cured, and the bike rides like a hot spider on the back of a burning
deck, and all the sea is white cream fire, and the outskirts of Las Vegas
recede into the blood of evening, a McCarthy trick that leaves you thinking
this apocalypse is an old century, and singularity your necessity, skirting
Badwater, only to be extinguished by the skillet heat of the desert, any time,
night or day, Jurassic or primeval prehistory, basket days, Sweet Grass or
Hupa, the darkness suffocates, and you climb downward into Furnace Creek, into
the raw subterrain of another volcanic aftermath, tümpisa, a rock paint region defined on the maps by its ability to
exorcise even the more persistent ghosts, and you wonder why that little guy in
the only store for a hundred miles doesn’t charge a ten spot at the door, air
cooled by what seem the insidious machines of the future, here in the heart of
enemy earth, the tires bubbling like fresh batter on the black macadam, and
there is no way you can stand, let alone sleep, the scorpions sizzling, the
darkness a monster, it teeth the iron heat, and so, weary as a dead man walking
the hundred mile stretch a hundred years before, you climb up the slow valley
toward the heaven of funeral hills and another desert, this one out of the
post-apocalyptic, this one simmering in the rains and artesian blessings that
have refused to die in heat beneath, this water-rock desert in its rough sand
blasts of spring, a place where the light is not absorbed, and time does not
stop, and at last in the purer darkness of starlight you can sleep.




* George Moore lives in Colorado. He writes “I've been interested in the prose poetry here on the IS&T site for awhile, but am just now thinking I might have something that fits the criteria.  Although I'm not familiar enough with the flash distinctions you mention, I think what I do basically merges the language of prose and poetry, and I've had some luck with pieces over the last few years.  I like mostly here what I've seen of the prose poems and flash fictions in early April.  In any case, I thought I'd submit.  Last year I had poems published internationally, in the States, England, Ireland, Australia, Canada, Iceland, France and Singapore.  I have published poems in Diode, ditch, Zone, Bathhouse, Blast, Cafe Irreal, Anastomoo, Apparatus, Eclectica, Fact-Similie, Cortland Review, and also The Colorado Review, North American Review, Orion, Queen's Quarterly, Dublin Quarterly, Antigonish Review.  I was nominated last year and this year again for a Pushcart Prize, and two Best of the Web prizes, and this year for The Rhysling Poetry Award.  My most recent collections are an e-book All Night Card Game in the Back Room of Time (Pulpbits 2007) and Headhunting (Mellen, 2002).  



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Lynn Valentine

 

 

 

At the Royal Ontario Museum

Four hundred pounds of rose pink muscle,
the dead heft of a whale’s heart, a mass
worthy of Rubens, worthy of Moore.

Visitors lean in to feel the quiver
of sea, pinned and plinthed
under glass, the thought of Arctic waters.

A bead of condensation
falls.

 

 

Lynn Valentine writes between dog walks on the Black Isle. Her work has been published online and in anthologies. She is organising her first poetry collection under the mentorship of Cinnamon Press after winning a place on their Pencil competition

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Nell Prince

 

 

 

Thunder Under London

It was there

a silver stratocaster making no sound

the air had a bleak purr

I picked up the neck and plucked a shape

Oh blare!  the ringing sweet of that strung gap

music meat to this hollow old world

I played and I flung

I flung out the heavy the sorrow the sadness that hung

I played and I played until an ending

a door to the roof of the sky that cracked

I was living and I attacked with bolts from my fingering pulse the shifting hum of the ohm the electric drone the curve that shouldering curve like a moon’s eclipse or a devil’s horn and that rough vibrating hum

I was being born

gripped at the frets the body smoked

it wrecked through the hollow halls

filled with a green fog the dark air and crammed crashing its waves on the concrete shore where the days had a spark

At last moored to a space I sensed the task:

to summon the living dead

the living that walked step by step, and forked in the dark,
and slept, dull irises that didn’t dare heart, blank faces commuting beyond the fake glare, stuck in the glass forests, the rock bare, and the cells glowing like tombs.

 

 

 

Nell Prince has had poems most recently published in PN Review, The Interpreter’s House, and Sidekick Books’ Battalion.  In 2016 she was runner-up in the Jane Martin prize.  She is working on a first collection.

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Sarah Parker

 

 

 

Claude Cahun

Bald as an egg
naked and ageless
negative.

Your eagle’s beak,
your Buddhist’s ear
the shorn
vulnerability of your nape

shot by a flash.

Marcel Moore behind the lens
finger poised

you pose

your onyx eye
forbidding judgement

daring us to meet it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sarah Parker is a lecturer in English at Loughborough University who has recently returned to writing poetry. She is the author of The Lesbian Muse and Poetic Identity (Routledge, 2014).

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On the Sixth Day of Christmas we bring you David Van-Cauter, Seth Crook and Laura McKee

 

 

 

Snowgrip

The snow has come
my car wedged in

its inches of icing
pockmarked with bird tracks

Under blanket and dressing gown
I watch others graft

with shovels
enabling my escape

They scrape away cold scraps
hack at raw earth

I feel friction in the window pane
and through the net

I and my cats assess
the pickings of the day

Above us, countless flakes
breathe in a holding shape

until slowly
they release their brakes

 

 

David Van-Cauter is a personal tutor and editor from Hitchin, Herts.In 2017 he was runner-up in the Bradford on Avon festival competition and highly commended in the Bare Fiction competition. He was shortlisted for the last IS&T Cafe Writers Commission.

 

 

 

THE WINTER HERONS OF LOCH SCRIDAIN
DON’T BELIEVE IN GOODWILL TO ALL MEN
OR WOMEN (OR NON-BINARIES OR WHATEVER)

Like deft officials of some secret order working on The Bigger Plan.
As if all will be revealed, but only on the final Boxing Day,
when the loch drains away, seals flop, crabs scuttle, moored boats

drown in the dry; when their majesties stretch out into true form;
when we glimpse, at last, the point of the beaky plot–shout
“Oh God, No!”, look for holes of hope in their mesh, flap like sprats.

 

 

Seth Crook loves puffins, has taught philosophy at various universities, rarely leaves Mull. His poems have most recently appeared this autumn in The Rialto, Envoi, The Interpreter’s House, Poetry Scotland, in the Noble Dissent (Beautiful Dragons) and Landfall (Federation of Scottish Writers) anthologies.

 

 

 

battery dead watching the snow

thinking how I was missing out
on a slomo film

three days before
I had found out I could do this

and turned a wave
into a slow waggle of fingers

anyway I tried
to just slow it down with my eyes

 

 

Laura McKee has some serious boots for the snow. Her poems can be found in journals including Under the Radar, Prole, The Rialto, Molly Bloom, and Pouch. You can contact her on Twitter: @Estlinin.

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‘The Red and Yellow Nothing’ by Jay Bernard shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry 2016

Jay does it again and more!

March 2018: Nothing to do with us this time but Jay Bernard has won the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry (2017) for Surge: Side A. This ‘was performed at the Roundhouse as part of The Last Word Festival 2017, investigating the New Cross Fire of 1981, a defining moment in Black British history that claimed thirteen lives. From the judges: “startling and fresh and unique… a moving and powerful struggle for validation in the Black British community, and the poet’s own clarification of identity. The performances are riveting and the poems are propelled by a strong internal momentum.”’

More at http://poetrysociety.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/18-PressRelease-THAWinner.pdf

*****

In March 2017, The Poetry Society announced that Jay Bernard’s The Red and Yellow Nothing had been shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry (2016). For Ink Sweat & Tears, a webzine with only a few print publications, this was a huge honour and although the eventual winner was Holly McNish’s Nobody Told Me, we can only thank the Poetry Society members who recommended Jay’s pamphlet and THA judges Jo Bell, Bernard O’Donoghue and Kathryn Williams for recognizing the spark in it.

From the judges: ‘This collection is an adventurous pilgrimage through style and form reclaiming medieval myth. It is beautifully paced with a musical momentum and demands to be revisited.’

From judge Kathyrn Williams’ introduction on awards night: ‘The pace and menace of The Red and Yellow Nothing has the horse pace of the ride of the Valkyries. It is time traveling through gender race and genre and is explored through an Arthurian legend – It reads like a song in my head.’

 

Joint Winner of the Café Writers Pamphlet Commission

The Arthurian tale of Sir Morien is the story of a young knight described as being “black from head to toe”, who rides to Camelot to find his father.

But what happened before this story began? Jay Bernard’s The Red and Yellow Nothing is a prequel that asks this question, and in the process meditates on the black presence in European art and culture, long before the invention of the divisive racial categories that exist today.

Morien’s story moves across genders, landscapes and centuries with references as diverse as William Dunbar and Kendrick Lamar. Patience Agbabi calls the collection “a psychedelic trip of genre and gender, fizzing with 600 years of wordplay.”

 

 

UK Delivery £7.50

 

The Red and Yellow Nothing originally came out of the 2014 IS&T/Café Writers Commission competition which Jay won jointly with Jon Morley.

 

Jay Bernard on writing The Red and Yellow Nothing. (From The Poetry Schools’ feature where each of the 2016 Ted Hughes shortlist is asked to blog about the writing process.)

…The Red and Yellow Nothing was like that. I didn’t realise what I’d written until I’d written it.

There are many influences. My introduction to the story begins with a quotation from Jessie Weston about the story of Morien in its current form – part of an idiosyncratic C14th compendium called the Lancelotcompilatie: “As it stands, the poem is a curious mixture of conflicting traditions.”

When I first started this project, I tried to be coherent. I tried to make it a neat confection of historical figures interacting with each other. And it didn’t work because the technical requirements of such a story are not neat.

The story itself isn’t neat, how could my interpretation seek to neutralise, formalise, make coherent?

More, including the influences of Kendrick Lamar, The Child Ballads and, we kid you not, Super Mario can be found here.

 

 

Reviews and Interviews: The Red and Yellow Nothing

 

‘The source text was translated into English by Jessie Weston in 1901. She commented, “the poem is a curious mix of conflicting traditions”. Bernard has more than lived up to the gloss. The pamphlet is a strange, lurid, baroque mash of tradition that calls to mind the “livingness” attempted by Hölderlin in his work with Sophocles’ Antigone. It does not stick with one style for long but is always dangerously alive…

…It is joyfully anachronistic (at one point Morien plays “the first computer game”). The world of the sequence is other, but complete. And the reader swallows each psychedelic trip. It is a magic trick to write back like this, into “the land before the story-o”, and for it to feel so crisp and alive and crackling.’

Edwina Attlee The Poetry Review Volume 107:2 Summer 2017

 

‘It’s incredible that so much has been fit into about 24 pages, including the handful of full-page illustrations by the poet, without feeling overburdened. The Red and Yellow Nothing has the feel of a heartfelt and intense investigation into something complex and significant, a true poetic quest, and one that has compromised little, if anything at all. It’s confusing, it’s challenging, it’s deeply satisfying, and it would be a real mistake to let such an exciting piece of work pass by uncelebrated.’

Dave Coates Dave Poems April 2017

 

‘For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?’ (W.H. Auden ‘The Night Mail’). Many poems have fallen underfoot in the forests of memory. Jay Bernard’s pamphlet makes brilliant use of one of these. Morien is a Middle Dutch romance; its hero, a Moorish knight. Bernard introduces her poem as ‘an inquiry into the idea of blackness in Europe’ before slavery.

This retelling of Morien is wildly appealing. Its opening (which can be sung) owes less to Le Morte d’Arthur than to topsy-turvy Disney, spiced with folk song in the style of the late great Kenneth Williams…’

Alison Brackenbury Under the Radar – Issue Eighteen

 

It is difficult to put a finger on the immediate aftermath of reading The Red and Yellow Nothing: there is puzzlement, rage, and wonder, but ultimately the sense that Jay Bernard has created a rare and beautiful thing. Part contemporary verse drama, part mythic retelling, the pamphlet – containing one long poem, broken into sections with stage directions – is framed as a ‘prequel to the tale of Sir Morien, son of Agloval’, narrating the backstory of the young Moor’s arrival in Camelot.

Theophilus Kwek, The London Magazine

 

The Red and Yellow Nothing is the story of a quest… or is it, and if so, for what? Jay Bernard has unearthed an Arthurian tale from a Middle Dutch poem of possible French origin, translated into English a century ago. Sir Agloval, a knight travelling in Moorish lands, meets a princess and then leaves her. She gives birth to Morien, who grows up and rides to Camelot in search of his father. He has some adventures, and there’s a happy ending… in the original.

In The Red and Yellow Nothing things go differently. I’ll talk about it in terms of the story, which is one way to give an idea of the variety in this unusual pamphlet. Adventures become experiments in time, space and identity, spinning out of a kaleidoscope of poem-episodes, leaving me dizzy and disoriented.

Fiona Moore, Sabotage Reviews

 

…Morien travels from Moorish lands to England to start his quest to find his father, in a sequence split into 13 parts, each starting with a stage direction. In II, the introduction suggests maybe we can empathise with the frustration one feels when the local people take one look at you, then hurry away from you before you’ve finished your sentence. Here, Morien asks a bard:

I'll fight you. Why don't you come out and face me and
fight me and tell me what you know? I've been riding since 
I don't know when, now I don't know where, 
why don't you come and face me. Everyone says
'I know not good knight where your father dwells.'

…The Red and Yellow Nothing is an exploration of identity, primarily through race, using its medieval setting to get away from modern labelling and to encourage readers to think about their own prejudices. The poems are rich in detail but remain mindful to need to progress a plot and tell the story.

Emma Lee, London Grip

 

Is ‘horrible’ horribly good?

I didn’t like this ‘prequel to the tale of Sir Morien’ but I can’t forget it, which must – I think – be sign of potency. What I remember best is the bit that appalled me most. That’s the way memory works: we have hotspots for disgust, sex, violence.

… I’m reminded that when I first met the word ‘allegory’ I thought it meant a story you couldn’t fully understand. And so it is, for me, with the The Red and Yellow Nothing. I don’t understand it at all but I can’t forget it. I wish I could.

Helena Nelson, Sphinx OPOI Reviews

 

Bernard turns the story of a lit­tle-known me­dieval knight into a fresh, witty and ex­cit­ing quest for iden­tity, in an imag­ined me­dieval world that is equal parts strange and fa­mil­iar. The poem is in­ter­spersed with gor­geous, richly tex­tured im­ages.

Diva (UK) 1 May 2016 (37)

 

…the two main readers were Jay Bernard and Jon Morley, both with new books. Both books are ambitious, many-sided. vivid and fascinating.

George Szirtes on Facebook after April 2016 launch of Commission pamphlets


 

Jay Bernard on The Red and Yellow Nothing

…I wanted to write something about blackness that wasn’t tragic, but still spoke to the situation we are currently in. The paradoxical nature of now: the way you can be erased, snuffed out, disfigured, distorted, while being privy to the remarkable insight that is only possible from the margins.

I thought that writing about black characters in a world before the construct of race as we currently know it would be a liberating move. I thought it might open up a contemplative space less weighted by the ballast of the media, and American media in particular. We are always expected to view ourselves in a certain way – and I wanted to present and view Morien completely differently.

Interview, October 2016 Poetry Spotlight

 

I wanted to write this pamphlet because I wanted to go backwards in history and begin exploring a time when blackness was not the thing it is today, when Moors culturally dominated the British, when race/racism had not yet been invented. There are some interesting scenes, such as when Morien rides to the beach and none of the sailors will take him because of his appearance. It’s very easy to read that as racism as we now understand it, but in the story [of the original Middle Dutch source] its pitched as a kind of stupidity…

Interview, April 2016, Speaking Volumes

**************

Jay was also celebrated by Spread the Word as part of LGBT History Month, February 2017, in the United Kingdom, where they shared the poetry platform with Dean Atta, Sophia Blackwell and W H Auden as well as other noted poets!

The Young Poets Network in conversation with Jay here.

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Reviews, Comments & Interviews: ‘The Red and Yellow Nothing’ by Jay Bernard

Shortlisted for The Poetry Society’s 2016 Ted Hughes Award.

From the judges: ‘This collection is an adventurous pilgrimage through style and form reclaiming medieval myth. It is beautifully paced with a musical momentum and demands to be revisited.’

From judge Kathyrn Williams’ introduction on awards night: ‘The pace and menace of The Red and Yellow Nothing has the horse pace of the ride of the Valkyries. It is time traveling through gender race and genre and is explored through an Arthurian legend – It reads like a song in my head.’

 

Reviews

‘The source text was translated into English by Jessie Weston in 1901. She commented, “the poem is a curious mix of conflicting traditions”. Bernard has more than lived up to the gloss. The pamphlet is a strange, lurid, baroque mash of tradition that calls to mind the “livingness” attempted by Hölderlin in his work with Sophocles’ Antigone. It does not stick with one style for long but is always dangerously alive…

…It is joyfully anachronistic (at one point Morien plays “the first computer game”). The world of the sequence is other, but complete. And the reader swallows each psychedelic trip. It is a magic trick to write back like this, into “the land before the story-o”, and for it to feel so crisp and alive and crackling.’

Edwina Attlee The Poetry Review Volume 107:2 Summer 2017

 

‘It’s incredible that so much has been fit into about 24 pages, including the handful of full-page illustrations by the poet, without feeling overburdened. The Red and Yellow Nothing has the feel of a heartfelt and intense investigation into something complex and significant, a true poetic quest, and one that has compromised little, if anything at all. It’s confusing, it’s challenging, it’s deeply satisfying, and it would be a real mistake to let such an exciting piece of work pass by uncelebrated.’

Dave Coates Dave Poems April 2017

 

‘For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?’ (W.H. Auden ‘The Night Mail’). Many poems have fallen underfoot in the forests of memory. Jay Bernard’s pamphlet makes brilliant use of one of these. Morien is a Middle Dutch romance; its hero, a Moorish knight. Bernard inroduces her poem as ‘an inquiry into the idea of blackness in Europe’ before slavery.

This retelling of Morien is wildly appealing. Its opening (which can be sung) owes less to Le Morte d’Arthur than to topsy-turvy Disney, spiced with folk song in the style of the late great Kenneth Williams…’

Alison Brackenbury Under the Radar – Issue Eighteen

 

It is difficult to put a finger on the immediate aftermath of reading The Red and Yellow Nothing: there is puzzlement, rage, and wonder, but ultimately the sense that Jay Bernard has created a rare and beautiful thing. Part contemporary verse drama, part mythic retelling, the pamphlet – containing one long poem, broken into sections with stage directions – is framed as a ‘prequel to the tale of Sir Morien, son of Agloval’, narrating the backstory of the young Moor’s arrival in Camelot.

Theophilus Kwek, The London Magazine

 

The Red and Yellow Nothing is the story of a quest… or is it, and if so, for what? Jay Bernard has unearthed an Arthurian tale from a Middle Dutch poem of possible French origin, translated into English a century ago. Sir Agloval, a knight travelling in Moorish lands, meets a princess and then leaves her. She gives birth to Morien, who grows up and rides to Camelot in search of his father. He has some adventures, and there’s a happy ending… in the original.

In The Red and Yellow Nothing things go differently. I’ll talk about it in terms of the story, which is one way to give an idea of the variety in this unusual pamphlet. Adventures become experiments in time, space and identity, spinning out of a kaleidoscope of poem-episodes, leaving me dizzy and disoriented.

Fiona Moore, Sabotage Reviews

 

…Morien travels from Moorish lands to England to start his quest to find his father, in a sequence split into 13 parts, each starting with a stage direction. In II, the introduction suggests maybe we can empathise with the frustration one feels when the local people take one look at you, then hurry away from you before you’ve finished your sentence. Here, Morien asks a bard:

I'll fight you. Why don't you come out and face me and
fight me and tell me what you know? I've been riding since 
I don't know when, now I don't know where, 
why don't you come and face me. Everyone says
'I know not good knight where your father dwells.'

…The Red and Yellow Nothing is an exploration of identity, primarily through race, using its medieval setting to get away from modern labelling and to encourage readers to think about their own prejudices. The poems are rich in detail but remain mindful to need to progress a plot and tell the story.

Emma Lee, London Grip

 

Is ‘horrible’ horribly good?

I didn’t like this ‘prequel to the tale of Sir Morien’ but I can’t forget it, which must – I think – be sign of potency. What I remember best is the bit that appalled me most. That’s the way memory works: we have hotspots for disgust, sex, violence.

… I’m reminded that when I first met the word ‘allegory’ I thought it meant a story you couldn’t fully understand. And so it is, for me, with the The Red and Yellow Nothing. I don’t understand it at all but I can’t forget it. I wish I could.

Helena Nelson, Sphinx OPOI Reviews

 

Bernard turns the story of a lit­tle-known me­dieval knight into a fresh, witty and ex­cit­ing quest for iden­tity, in an imag­ined me­dieval world that is equal parts strange and fa­mil­iar. The poem is in­ter­spersed with gor­geous, richly tex­tured im­ages.

Diva (UK) 1 May 2016 (37)

 

…the two main readers were Jay Bernard and Jon Morley, both with new books. Both books are ambitious, many-sided. vivid and fascinating.

George Szirtes on Facebook after April 2016 launch of Commission pamphlets

 


Jay Bernard on The Red and Yellow Nothing

…The Red and Yellow Nothing was like that. I didn’t realise what I’d written until I’d written it.

There are many influences. My introduction to the story begins with a quotation from Jessie Weston about the story of Morien in its current form – part of an idiosyncratic C14th compendium called the Lancelotcompilatie: “As it stands, the poem is a curious mixture of conflicting traditions.”

When I first started this project, I tried to be coherent. I tried to make it a neat confection of historical figures interacting with each other. And it didn’t work because the technical requirements of such a story are not neat.

The story itself isn’t neat, how could my interpretation seek to neutralise, formalise, make coherent?

More, including the influences of Kendrick Lamar, The Child Ballads and, we kid you not, Super Mario can be found by clicking the link below.

Blog, March 2017 Poetry School feature where each of the 2016 Ted Hughes shortlist is asked to blog about the writing process.

 

…I wanted to write something about blackness that wasn’t tragic, but still spoke to the situation we are currently in. The paradoxical nature of now: the way you can be erased, snuffed out, disfigured, distorted, while being privy to the remarkable insight that is only possible from the margins.

I thought that writing about black characters in a world before the construct of race as we currently know it would be a liberating move. I thought it might open up a contemplative space less weighted by the ballast of the media, and American media in particular. We are always expected to view ourselves in a certain way – and I wanted to present and view Morien completely differently.

Interview, October 2016 Poetry Spotlight

 

I wanted to write this pamphlet because I wanted to go backwards in history and begin exploring a time when blackness was not the thing it is today, when Moors culturally dominated the British, when race/racism had not yet been invented. There are some interesting scenes, such as when Morien rides to the beach and none of the sailors will take him because of his appearance. It’s very easy to read that as racism as we now understand it, but in the story [of the original Middle Dutch source] its pitched as a kind of stupidity…

Interview, April 2016, Speaking Volumes

 

Hannah Lowe Your recent work The Red and Yellow Nothing moves way back in time, centuries before Windrush, to explore ‘blackness in Europe’. I really enjoyed the book, a prequel to a Middle Dutch folktale. In the introduction you tell us that the character Morien is ‘not raced, but he is dark skinned’. Could you say more about that? Might Windrush obscure these earlier histories?

JB With the Red and Yellow Nothing I wanted to write about a time before this kind of racism, which we have become accustomed to. Which is not to say there wasn’t horrendous prejudice — of course there was. You only need to read Staying Power to learn about the laws against black people taking up apprenticeships, the racist hiring practices in the shipping industry, the violence that targeted people in their houses. But The Red and Yellow Nothing goes back beyond that, and I suppose into a time we’ll never quite comprehend. The story the book is based on, The Tale of Sir Morien, shows a ‘white’ father embracing his ‘black’ Moorish son. The dynamics are so completely different to anything else I’d read that I felt it was important to present this too: not that somehow people were lovely to each other back then and are terrible now, but that this stuff changes, that dynamics between different cultures and people were different. There is something powerful about being able to see glimpses of another reality, especially in Europe, because the racism of today and the racism that infuses the history of the Windrush feels so all-encompassing.

Excerpt from interview in Wasafiri 33 2018 vol 2. Inside the Frame: Women Writers and the Windrush Legacy

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