Skip To Content
  • UK Black History Month badge

We Asked British Poets To Share Their Favourite Poems For National Poetry Day

This year's theme is “messages”.

Tania Nwachukwu

Amaal Said

Age: 24

Themes in your work: Family, memory, displacement, diaspora, identity, love.

Favourite poem: Lol I don’t even have a favourite colour, let alone a favourite poem. I’ve read so many amazing ones over the years, but the poems I always look forward to revisiting are "Brown PinkGrey" and "3000" by Kareem Parkins-Brown. Kareem writes like a Speakerboxx, like a Boy in da Corner, he writes like my childhood and my teenhood and that familiarity is one I cherish.

What comes to mind when you think of the word "messages"? I think of miscommunication. I think of the many ways a message can be delivered and how that affects the way that it’s received. Voice notes vs texts. Actions vs words. How we can use a whole novel to talk about love and still get that same message from a three-line haiku.

Caleb Femi

Caleb Femi

Age: 26

Themes in your work: I retell stories from my life; vulnerable and honest stories. Stories about being Nigerian, being a man, being a Londoner, being a grime aficionado, and about all the other many facets that constitute my being.

Favourite poem: I haven’t known it to be possible to have a favourite poem. "Prelude" by Nate Marshall is a poem I like very much at the moment.

What comes to mind when you think of the word "messages"? All messages that have been sentenced by my cowardice to sit in my drafts until they become as irrelevant as the dust that gather on them, until the damage is an unspeakable thing; irreversible.

I think about the messages behind our poems – the poems carry messages that we otherwise struggle to say to one another or struggle to understand. I think about the importance of sending messages without turning the poem into a dogmatic vehicle where each person decodes a different message from the same source; the same poem.

I think about the overwhelming endeavour it took to write messages on a Nokia 3310, I kinda miss it.

Travis Alabanza

Alexander Lijka

Themes in your work: Being a young, black, queer, and trans kid that grew up on a council estate – my work really revolves around processing those experiences. Themes of invisibility/visibility, belonging, [and] isolation are presented through discussions of how queerness and race intersect and using live poetry, sound, and theatre to personify them.

Favourite poem: I have too many and I feel they change all the time and I like that. But at the moment "frank ocean and all black things disappear on their own" by Jonathan Jacob Moore.

What comes to mind when you think of the word "messages"? I think of the dominant messages we are told, but then the incredible people that organise and work to create counter-messages of liberation. I think of current community messages being shown from groups like Sisters Uncut, BlackInTheDay, and BlackLivesMatter, and how innovative folks are in creating ways to spread important messages.

Theresa Lola


Age: 22

Themes in your work: Music, death, diaspora, loss.

Favourite poem: "Sorrows" by Lucille Clifton.

What comes to mind when you think of the word “messages”?
I am reminded of the words we said or didn't say to those in our lives, and the way they sit at the front of our memory and shape the way we invite other people in. They are also shaped by the words they receive from us.

Joshua Idehen

Fiona Garden / Via

Age: 36

Themes in your work:
Family, love, social commentary, pop culture, and politics.

Favourite poem: "Love Rain Suite" – Jill Scott Experience 826.

What comes to mind when you think of the word “messages”? "Messages" reminds me there are 7 billion people on earth and each one has a unique story to tell, a different take or a better articulated version of the same 24 hours we all experience. Whether it's a new child born to remind us of the beauty of life, or Donald Trump to remind us all that inherited wealth cannot buy you class, common sense, or a better disguise for that blonde headcrab currently piloting that orange flesh-suit across the States.

Mina West

Kelvin Fred-Horsfall

Age: 26

Themes in your work: Everything relating to life and the transitions I personally go through, from relationships, love, family, spirituality – the list goes on. Passion is deeply rooted in the miseducation of black history and mistreatment it has caused us today.

Favourite poem: "Good Father" by Prentice Powell. I fell in love with spoken word because it was unapologetic of its vulnerability. In this poem Prentice exposes his pain and allows the audience into his space.

What comes to mind when you think of the word "messages"? I think, What is your personal strapline, what do you stand for? I believe we all have a message in us ready to be birthed and shared with the world, something we have to add to our community, friends loved ones, etc. … The main question is, does our message benefit or harm? We are flooded with so many forms of messages through media, peers, and so on, I think it’s a responsibility on all to be conscious on what message we choose to share. I'm still learning this, and trying to practise [it] in my life, and hope this is reflective in my poetry.

Rhael Cape, aka LionHeart


Age: 29

Themes in your work: Selective mutism, emotional understanding, insecurities.

Favourite poem: "Dispatches from the black barbershop, Tony's chair 2011" by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib.

What comes to mind when you think of the word "messages"? Subliminal messages, the hidden meaning between things said and unsaid, the things we don't say.

Jolade Olusanya

Jolade Olusanya

Age: 25

Themes in your work: Identity, growth, home, culture, pain, Nigeria, masculinity – pretty much all of life, but these more so than others.

Favourite poem: I love rap and a lot of it to me is poetry. So I'd say "Joe Metro" by Blue Scholars and "Shades" by Wale. But if we're talking strict poetry then "Coconut Oil" by Caleb Femi and anything by Kahlil Gibran.

What comes to mind when you think of the word "messages"? Messages mean movement. A conversation on its way somewhere. It's conveying something. It means one has something to say, that one is full of something they must share. If anything, "messages" almost sounds like a more human approach to conversation. One with feeling and depth beneath its surface. All things I feel we're missing today.



Age: 24

Themes in your work: Identity, femininity, race, self-love.

Favourite poem: The World's Wife collection by Carol Ann Duffy.

What comes to mind when you think of the word "messages"? I think of my message, the one I so desperately want to turn into a movement. My name, DYLEMA, is an acronym for "Do You. Let every man adapt." It encouraged me to become fearless with my creativity, and I want to encourage others to embody this mantra too. It results in freedom of expression and individual liberation.

Yomi Sode

Gus Miller

Themes in your work: Masculinity, identity and displacement, sex, culture, politics, and violence.

Favourite poem I have a lot of poems that could be considered as "favourite" poems. However, as you asked in this particular time, I find myself going back to a poem by Malika Booker called "Pepper Sauce". I'm currently exploring poems that sneak up on you without knowing, and this poem does just that. You get the people involved, the situation, but it still holds back until it's ready, and yes, I would love my work to have the reader going through similar emotions.

What comes to mind when you think of the word "messages"? Not too complex, not oversimplified. Now I am older, I think about the things I wasn't told when I was younger, the things I experience or experienced and how best to get this across through my art. Ultimately, how would I like to prepare my child for the world? What do I want to say, leave behind, and challenge?

Want great book recommendations in your inbox every week? Sign up for the BuzzFeed Books newsletter!

Newsletter signup form