Caribbean Poet and Author Releases First Poetry Collection

With a career spanning over twenty years and work published in all manner of magazines, anthologies and journals, few poets have made a name for themselves in the way Panya Banjoko has.

Five Leaves Bookshop, champion of independent publishing and Nottingham writers everywhere, hosted the launch of Panya Banjoko’s new poetry collection Some Things, published by Burning Eye, on Wednesday 5 September. Abii – the other half of SoetryPanya’s song-verse hybrid – conjured the music.

Panya Banjoko is a legend on the Nottingham poetry scene and far wide. She has toured internationally, coordinates a writers-and-artists network, is a patron of Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature and a founder of Read a Black Writer Day. She was one of the first poets I heard perform, and inspired me to take my own writing more seriously.

Some Things is a triumph of storytelling. As Philip Pullman recently reminded us, it’s a magical practice that dates back to the beginnings of humanity, and Panya’s poems work that magic. She is a story-weaver-supreme. Her parables startle, glisten, charm, and pierce; they are sharp, and go in deep. 

Standout story poems in the collection are the Hummingbird sequence, threaded through the book. Great fables that come from somewhere far, yet just across town. They speak to our world’s ways with clear-eyed compassion. Toad and Snake “played side by side: venom bound their friendship”.  Hummingbird, their victim, is the “other”, “looking at half moon”, and ends stripped of wings. In the second poem, Hummingbird, “before his courage sank like filthy swamp” is given healing: “What will you do now you are new again?” asks Ant. And when you buy this wonderful book you’ll find out in Hummingbird III.

Each poem’s fabric, words, sounds, images, form, is captivating. Dreams become children: “Last night I was feeding dreams/in a place over summer/where tribal statues played”. Buses become theatre: “Morning’s dream/was on a bus/slacking/through a maze”.

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