Interview with…Kayo Chingonyi

The London based poet spoke to Love London Love Culture’s Editor Emma Clarendon about his debut poetry collection Kumukanda and being  shortlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Prize. 

Kayo (c) Naomi Woddis (3)
(c)Naomi Woodis. 

Hi Kayo – thank you for talking to Love London Love Culture. Congratulations on being shortlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Prize. How do you feel about being nominated? Hello, thank you! Being nominated is a rush given all the wonderful books that were eligible.

How would you describe your poetry? I wouldn’t. If pushed I would say that I believe poetry allows for a balance between what a word means and its texture and sound; I aspire to achieving that balance in my work.

Could you tell me a bit more about your poetry collection Kumukanda? Song is the formal constraint to which many of the poems allude.

How did the collection come about? What were you inspired by? I started the book on a writing retreat at Cove Park in Scotland in 2013. The title came to mind and I became fixated with the idea of initiation, which is what Kumukanda means in Luvale, the processes that bring people to an awareness of themselves and the cultural groups to which they belong. The book explores some of the possibilities of a hybrid way of being, informed by a number of things at the same time.

How do you come up with your poems? When I’m in the midst of writing something there is a clarity that comes that focuses my mind. It’s the same feeling I get when going very fast on a bike; I have to concentrate and relax at the same time.

What are you working on at the moment? Some new poems towards a second collection. I’m also writing prose essays.

Kayo Chingonyi’s debut poetry collection Kumukanda (published by Vintage) has been shortlisted for the 2018 Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize. The winner will be announced on Thursday 10th May, find out more information here


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