New Book: Red: Contemporary Black British Poetry

‘…this fiery collection demands to be noticed…’

Margaret Busby

RED is the first anthology of contemporary Black British poetry for ten years, since Lemn Sissay’s groundbreaking, The Fire People. Published by Peepal Tree Press, the leading publisher of Caribbean and Black British Literature, RED is launched through their new Inscribe imprint for Black British writers.

RED includes 80 poets; internationally renowned poets such as Linton Kwesi Johnson, John Agard, Jack Mapanje Jackie Kay, Dorothea Smartt and Lemn Sissay; award winning poets, Grace Nichols, Bernardine Evaristo, Daljit Nagra and Fred D’Aguiar; two of Poetry Society's New Generation Poets, Moniza Alvi and  Patience Agbabi; poets from Dawes’s Afro Poetry School; poets from Inscribe; poets from Malika’s Kitchen; poets from Cultureword; poets from The Complete Works; poets from the Sable/Arvon workshops and more. Poets from throughout the British Isles; The Shetland Islands to Wales and those who have since moved abroad to as far away as New Zealand.

“The term Black British is an evolving one.” Therefore, “If a poet felt comfortable with the label ‘Black British’, then he or she was welcome to submit work to the anthology,” says editor, Kwame Dawes in his Introduction. The breadth of this label is evident from the first entry in the anthology – ‘Red’ by Abdullahi Botan Hassan translated from the Somali by Martin Orwin.

RED collects poems by Black British poets writing with the word “red” in mind – as a kind of a leap-off point, a context, a germ – the way something small, minor, or grand might spur a poem. It offers the reader the freedom to come to whatever conclusions they want to about what writing as a poet who is also Black and British might mean. The collection succeeds in producing poems that seem to be first about image, and only then about whatever else fascinates the poet.  In this sense, RED illustrates the diversity of Black British poetry whether in the richness of the entries, the moods, the humour, the passion, the reflection, the confessional – all confirm that Black British poetry is a lively and defining force in Britain today.

RED shows that Peepal Tree Press is the publisher to watch for new Black British writing.


Editor -  Kwame Dawes is a poet, novelist, playwright and critic. His work as an organiser and deliverer of poetry workshops has been hailed in many parts of the world, not least in the UK, USA and Jamaica, where he has been the literary programmer of the Calabash International Literature Festival since it started in 2001. His work as an editor received wide praise for Wheel and Come Again: An Anthology of Reggae Poetry. Dawes is the Associate Poetry Editor for Peepal Tree Press and in 2009 he received an Emmy Award for, a multimedia website on the human face of HIV/AIDS in Jamaica featuring poems from his collection Hope’s Hospice.

Series Editor  - Kadija Sesay set up the Inscribe programme and currently co-directs it with poet Dorothea Smartt. Over the past 15 years she has edited several groundbreaking anthologies of writing by writers of African descent, including, Six Plays by Black and Asian Women Writers and IC3: The Penguin Book of New Black Writing in Britain with Courttia Newland. For the past 10 years she has published SABLE LitMag. She is the Chair of the Women’s Committee for International PEN and has won several awards for her work in the creative arts.

About Inscribe

The Inscribe imprint has developed from the successful writer development programme for writers of African and Asian descent in Yorkshire, based at Peepal Tree Press. It has led to the publication of Seni Seneviratne’s debut poetry collection Wild Cinnamon and Winter Skin; John Siddique’s first collection of poetry for children Don’t Wear it on Your Head Don’t Stick it Down Your Pants, shortlisted for the CLPE Poetry Award and the first chapbooks of Simon Murray and Khadijah Ibrahiim.  Simon Murray received an Arts Council Award to complete the development of his chapbook into a full length novel, Kill Myself Now: Confessions of an Advertising Man and Khadijah Ibrahiim recently received a bursary to the El Gouna writer’s residency in Egypt to complete the development of her chapbook, Rootz Runnin’.

Peepal Tree Press, Inscribe and Red are supported by Arts Council England.


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