Kayo Chingonyi: The Poetry of Existence

If there is a disease that is responsible for the title of Kayo Chingonyi’s new poetry collection A Blood Condition, he never names it. Perhaps that’s because the London-based poet’s work is first and foremost about bloodlines – about the people and culture of his upbringing – that have had just as powerful an impact on him as the dominant British culture of English Literature. His work draws inspiration from Black hip hop lyricists just as readily as white canonical writers. Nevertheless, readers of Chingonyi’s work will find it easy to imagine a more tragic inference to his title – especially if they know that he lost both his parents to HIV-related illnesses. This is the Zambia-born writer’s second collection: it embodies the search for a poetic form that is true to his inheritance while also capable of being appreciated without stereotypical impressions of Blackness and ‘racial identity’. In this event, filmed live at the 2021 Edinburgh International Book Festival, Chingonyi performs work that is sophisticated, profound and full of grace.

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