2020 Mixtape: Writers of Colour Audio Anthology

White text on a background of abstract shapes in browns, blues and pinks: 'Mixtape 2020: Writers of Colour Audio Anthology. Selected by Hannah Lavery. Sound design by Sarya Wu.

We are thrilled to present ‘2020 Mixtape: Writers of Colour Audio Anthology’, to celebrate the work produced within the Writers of Colour Writing Group, led by Hannah Lavery.

This group began in February 2019 as a monthly writers group for Black writers and writers of colour. During 2020 Hannah ran it online weekly as a response to global events, including the Covid-19 pandemic and heightened awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement.

For the anthology, attendees were invited to submit up to three poems and had a 1:1 mentoring session with Hannah before submitting an audio recording of their final poem. You can listen to the album on Soundcloud here or scroll down to listen and access the text.

The text of each poem is provided for access purposes only. Text may not be used outside of this website or for any other purposes. Authors retain full copyright.

 

2020 Mixtape: Writers of Colour Audio Anthology

Listen to the anthology on SoundCloud

Featuring:

  • Hannah Lavery
  • Jess Brough
  • Bee Asha
  • Jeda Pearl Lewis
  • Yasmin Hanif
  • Amanda Ajomale
  • Andrea Cabrera Luna 
  • Lyly Lepinay
  • Myla Corvidae
  • Andrés Nicolás Ordorica
  • Titilayo Farukuoye
  • Clementine E. Burnley
  • Esraa Husain
  • Alycia Pirmohamed
  • Sanjna Yechareddy
  • Dean Atta
  • Sean Wai Keung
  • Nasim Rebecca Asl
  • Sanjay Lago

Selected by Hannah Lavery | Twitter | Website
Sound Design by Sarya Wu | Instagram | Soundcloud | Website

Hannah Lavery

Flying Bats

I was invited here – I am sure I was 

to read my poetry

That’s what the email said.

 

I’ve been writing a lot about trees – 

Oh, there is this nest I found in a hedge. 

Blue wee eggs. A Starling – was it?

 

Aye, well, I was invited – 

that’s what it said.

 

Tonight, for all you lovely folk 

I am unpacking my poetry suitcase – ta da! 

The travelling poetry salesman. That’ll be me 

Roll up, roll up- going, going, going… 

 

And they say, after, they say, I love

how you spoke about found nests 

as a metaphor for immigration

truth is- I’ve always been here 

 

I was just writing about this wood 

at the back of my house 

about a nest I found  

 

how at night I duck the bats 

as if they might fly into my hair 

even though I know, I duck. 

Even though I know 

they know this place 

just as well as they know 

I know this place…Still, I duck. 

Jess Brough

Quiet in the Dark

Silence doesn’t exist for the living.

The best we can do is a quiet place,

an absence of loud noise,

or a whisper on the end of a breath.

Even with the sounds turned off

and our mouth shut, lips sealed,

there will always be

low hum of a light switch,

electricity moving behind a wall

inside insulated wire.

The smallest footsteps of an ant outside,

wind entering a room through a gap by the window.

Even in the dark you will hear

the dull beat of your own heart,

creaking sounds of your bones’ angles.

Teeth tap in a head

rubbing sideways on the pillow,

above where your body is settling, but kinetic,

all the while communicating that you

are still alive.

So even when you say you’re sorry

for your silence,

that you did not speak up

when you could have shouted with us.

Remember, silence is only attainable

in truest form

at final rest.

When hearts and bones

and breathing stopped.

And though you did not shout,

or speak up with us or cry,

you still joined a chorus

much louder than forgiveness.

Bee Asha

To Write

here

now

I sit in my cave

my underground pit 

with avocado in my hair 

and the heavy fear of

it all.

 

I watch the clouds from my one basement window and consider the axis

then turn to my black Friday, flash sale, flat screen TV.. 

and access 

it all.

 

I think that I am angry or maybe she just was

or maybe I am sad.

I pause… 

what do I feel, are they even mine? 

 

it reminds me of then, 

now. 

they remind me of them 

and how they had said that

I think they felt that same bubbling in their belly as I am feeling now

I was listening to that poet that I like

I was letting the videos roll on and on to the next

and I felt it.

I felt that same want to be heard

and to hear

so I picked up my pen 

and I sat at my desk

I wanted to tell them that.

that I had felt it

that I had heard it

words of worlds apart and together 

roll from lips and syllables lay little spoken stones for stepping into their known

a thousand different tones flow down their river bed 

and inver my head 

I am led to lead 

and I am fed to feed

 

I have avocado in my hair and I sit in my cave considering 

it all. 

Jeda Pearl Lewis

I was born

After Jameson Fitzpatrick

I was born

and it was political.

I was breastfed and the breastmilk was political.

There was no hot water tap in our flat and that lack – 

that was political. After swim-pool baths, my brown skin was anointed 

and those were political, the bathing and baby oil, and my mother’s white hands.

Soon, I was weaned without meat and that was political.

When I refused to eat vegetables, my grandmother’s mince 

became political. Our new housing association home

felt different, until banana peels rained from windows above, 

along with gobs of spit that were very obviously political.

In my “multicultural” school playground, those stubby white fingers 

pointed in turn, reciting ‘einy meeny miney mo, catch a nipper…’

In school corridors, aged eight, I was groped by an eleven-year-old white boy

and telling them – mum, dad, teachers, all – that was political.

Later, I wore outlandish clothes, injected skanking and whining 

into my dancefloor grooves and, in doing so, claimed back my political. 

When told I couldn’t write by an old white man (my teacher), I

penned songs instead and hill slides of letters. 

I called myself mixed-race and that was political.

Then, off I went, carrying ancestors’ dreams on my back to uni, where the total sum

of us three non-white students had our portfolios on display – the token attractions 

at Open Day. I thought someone like me couldn’t be a Scottish poet. But here I am, 

placing black political ink on this white political page, with my brown hand

that refuses to sleep.

Yasmin Hanif

Partition

Refugee trains pass through the mother land.

Carrying loads of closely held heartbeats.

Some large, some small, some shaken, some beat.

But all with one desire, one hope, one need.

To live.

They clutch their only ticket tighter,

They breathe a little longer and a lot deeper.

A one-way track to freedom, from a divide

of nation, religion, and pride. A divide,

of hearts and souls and minds left behind.

The train goes faster, the load becomes heavier,

Speedy, wet eyes make the land blurrier.

The sun grows hotter, the day becomes wearier.

Then the carriages are set alight.

They burn.

People are used as logs.

They burn.

The train and its contents.

They burn.

Everything is so bright.

It burns.

The small, the large, the still, no longer beat.

Except the driver.

Who departs the silent tomb.

Across the Great divide.

Amanda Ajomale

Mama, I really did try my best

Mama, I really did try my best.

He did nothing wrong.

He went to the park; he was wearing a mask.

Stopped and searched because his skin was suspicion enough.

His mother is my mother, but my blue eyes and golden hair shield me from the crime

          of my negro blood.

His skin, dark, like hers, is reason enough, punishment enough, to lock him away, 

          hide him from society.

And still we fight violence with silence and somehow expect it to stop.

“Mama, I really did try my best,” I said in my one phone call.

I only got after begging, pleading.

Down on my knees in tears, crying for my mother.

Born of a black woman, born of a black woman, born of a black woman, 

          whose blood runs through these very streets,

          whose breasts nursed babes who would grow to hang her own children from trees for sport.

They see it in the shape of my nose.

An African man in a white man’s skin.

And my eyes are as blue as my tears are wet,

          tears for my brother whose only crime was having a black woman for a mother.

Punishment before judgement.

Walking while black, 

          and that one drop of negro blood was enough to alter the value of his life.

Should I, then, consider myself lucky?

Had my skin been dark like my brother’s,

My eyes darker,

My hair curlier,

Would I even get to call my mother?

Would I even have the chance to hear her voice one last time before my soul was so cruelly snatched from this earth by those who consider my hue a threat to their own existence?

Mama, I really did try my best.

But maybe my children can do better.

Andrea Cabrera Luna

Mamá, I really don’t know how to say this (a story of white fragility)

Mamá I really don’t how to say this

Mamá don’t believe what they said about me

I Woke Up At 6AM

Went to conservatoire everyday

They didn’t explain

They just kicked me out

They said I wasn’t clear enough

They said I made them cry

A bunch of white Americans cried

Because they couldn’t understand me

They hugged each other on the corner

Looked at me as if I was the devil

Mamá I didn’t shoot them

Mamá I just observed

Distanced myself

What could I do?

 

Mamá I really don’t know how to say this

Don’t believe what they said about me

I’m angry

I’m sad

I want to kill myself

But why should I?

You gave me this life

Who am I to take that away?

Mamá they ignored me

They said they couldn’t understand a word I said

They said I wasn’t clear enough

So they cried

A bunch of white Americans cried

They hugged each other

Why?

Because they couldn’t understand me

The tutor kicked me out

I said nothing

They said they were hurt

I said nothing

The tutor kicked me out

I said nothing

I Did Nothing

Mamá no sé cómo explicártelo

 

But I know you understand me

Lyly Lepinay

A granddaughter’s first words in Cantonese

公公 

She bites into the fleshy fruit savouring its sweetness.

They savour the sweetness of hearing those two words.

Two words that bear fruit to her half self,

though she claims less than that.

 

Hungering after this part of her

they watch the juices of their culture drip down her cherub face,

marvel as their shared heritage stick to her chubby hands,

only for her mother to wipe them away,

keeping only the fruit of her whiteness.

 

The mother long discarded the seed of her own identity,

lost the taste buds of her mother tongue.

There are parts of herself she no longer consumes,

plenty more she does not plant into her daughter.

Her Asianness is shrivelled inside 

even if she cannot peel off her own yellow skin.

 

But they’ll that 

Those two words:

公公, 

眼.

And they’ll savour that Less-than-that:

their granddaughter, their flesh. 

The fruit from their seed.

Myla Corvidae

A Bull in a Charity Shop

After Anthony Anaxagorou and Karim Kamar

Head down

Weaving through crowds

The sound of footsteps on rain on streets

The wind in my ears

Tugging me to listen.

But I have stopped listening to whispers.

Too busy to think about then

Only now.

 

A hand on the doorframe,

I push

The merry jingle of bells

Announces me

Like thunder

A storm has approached.

 

Old white body

Crumpled up behind the counter

Glares at me in distrust.

 

I greet her with platitudes

“I’m just looking.”

Unconsciously roll up my sleeves

 

No thief here.

 

I have 5 pence to my name

the raindrops on my back

and the wind chasing me in.

 

I feel like a hulking creature

Entering such a small space

Old white body eyes bore into the back of my skull.

Labelled: They will break everything they touch.

 

I hope I do.

 

This process is meant to be simple.

These prices are too white for my pockets.

Old white body crackles as she stretches her corrugated limbs,

moved out behind the counter.

 

Disapproving laser eyes.

 

She wants to protect this place from the likes of me.

She is the bull in the charity shop I must lure away with the red flag of money.

But I do not have enough.

I search again, eyes jumping from price to price.

I am frozen with embarrassment

This hulking invading piece.

 

All odd bones and unsorted pieces.

Eyes sideways glancing at the bull

As it draws ever closer

Waiting for the signal to rage.

 

Then, as I am about to give up the hope of victory,

I see it,

Hidden away at the back.

Away from white eyes

A haphazard handmade cup

Clay chipped and colours fading

3 pence.

Brown.

 

I turn around and smiled knowingly

I the bottom of this cup I will bury the memory of this bull.

 

I go to the counter with the found object,

Old white body hates this cup as much as she hates me.

The bull wraps my chalice and places it on the counter.

No hands exchanged.

Contagion.

She says with her frown.

 

Outside sun shines again

A moment of rainbows

 

I go home with my prize.

 

There it sits on the counter. I change out of wet clothes

Drenched in this old white bodied bull.

 

I unwrap this new holy grail with care,

I thirst for a taste of home.

 

Gently I bring the chai to a simmer, add a generous portion

Of colonial sugar

And pour into my cracked cup.

Praying it together.

 

The cup holds, so do I.

A sip of memories.

A sip of old white buried in moments already forgiven.

A sip from a cracked cup, I cling, I dream of home.

Andrés Nicolás Ordorica

The Flower had a Name

The flower had a name that stood out but is now forgotten.

 

“Should I get another basket?”

“Why?”

“For the flowers.”

 

The ones I was holding in my hands.

 

“Was it hyacinth, or hydrangea, or hawthorns?”

[Google cannot make sense of my questions.]

 

For the past seven months, memories have melded

like yellow butter being mixed into a battered

and bruised existence, left to rise eventually. 

 

[The care home sign reads: “Come join us”.]

 

As fire burnt – to complete destruction – a home

that was built for the dying (or the old). 

 

A highland train hurdled toward a field due to rain

that some had prayed for because a dry season 

had momentarily plagued the barley fields.

 

The flowers were pretty as they stood tall

but had so much detritus that turned the water

a sad mildew green, a swamp in the bottom of the vase. 

 

“Those flowers are pretty.”

 

So much of my recent life has been performed through a screen, 

behind a mask, hiding half my truth. 

 

This week my nose bled for thirty minutes straight

and yet that was not the worst thing to happen in the world.

 

The flower had a name that is now forgotten, 

so instead I watched the petals fall

as a swamp took over my living room.

 

as the world burned and flooded outside, and 

the approaching seasons came hurdling toward me 

like a highland train that had broken from the track.

Titilayo Farukuoye

Nature

My skin registers the air first

Most visible in the wind is my hair

Goosebumps develop all over my body

I breathe. Take a deep breath. Ground my toes in the soft, moist grass.

My chest lifts <breathe in>

for a split second I share freedom with the bird above me.

For a split second, I am closer to the sun.

<breathe out>

I release the air.

I am back, closer to the grass, heals grounded

feet hip width apart.

I lift my face to the sun and smile <breathe in>

like the old Norwegian lady happiness spills over my face and through my body <breathe out>.

I imagine I feel like her, feel that moment when she encounters the first sunlight of the year,

after a long, eternal winter. <breathe in>

<breathe out>

Clementine E. Burnley

Graduation Day

I notice how you bring your parents’ Empire 

with you. Your mother’s gloves, her dressing table 

her “Good morning my thin gal” 

her thanks and praise 

her petulant “You no greet when you see me” 

her blue hardback passport cancelled by 

a Labour government in 1972 

your father’s barbecues 

his sense of being on the right side 

Your parents had a good time 

They were a bit smug 

but didn’t look down on everyone else 

who was a different colour 

 

I come to love how in class 

you pause deliberate before you say 

“And therefore the implication is,…” 

When the teacher asks 

You’re not a troublemaker are you? 

You shake your head, 

“Oh no, not at all Miss,”

 

I watch how

you come to enjoy how

our presence worries the scene

How you make the margins

a middle ground

You make notes, for our revolution,

you bring seasoning

For a while, after the politics of your

belonging invade your friendships

When a hostile outside climate invades you

you say you could drown,

For a while, you disappear

You say to see where your brain goes

I fear you will not come back

Others have gone before you

I swear if you return

I will swim with you and we will survive

 

When we graduate high school

Your parents will come to see us

as we drink ginger beer, as chew meat pie

as celebrate a win against the full force

of the official discourse

Esraa Husain

August

The runaways,

Bleeding,

And ignoring,

A cloak of sorrow,

Not as an act of denial but as an act of defiance,

 

Of the untold,

That a seagull was hit by a car, a bus, a train, a rocket, a reality,

And continued to internally jumping jump,

Because there was no time to think critically of what had happened,

The sheltered-mind,

Plays a pivotal role,

Creates a vivid vision,

And the pretend-sheltered-mind,

Comes up with a bubbly crumbly numbly wobbly entity,

What’s left to see?

Infinity.

Alycia Pirmohamed

I Want the Kind of Permanence of a Birdwatcher’s Catalogue

At Lochend Park, swans tendril together

the shape of my longing,

 

a languid zipline trail of water.

I lean over the edge, see petals of my face

 

thorning in the water, a Tuesday morning vase

of unhurried thoughts and magenta

 

lipstick—

 

Any birdwatcher will tell you

that winged boats

 

do not howl through their sharp, pyramid beaks.

 

That sound clicking through 

waterlogged bodies

 

must be the prosody of my own desires.

 

I showered in the summer solstice light

that morning

 

and read my morning prayers off the cracked

screen of my phone

 

—Forgi/ve me

 

as if a corner of my yearning refracted into an alternate

universe,

 

a parallel world, a symmetrical ruffled wing.

 

I reorient myself on the path, into a body turned

away from its doubling,

 

sick of my own gaze staring back.

 

There is departure in every window, in every

wind-rustled memory.

 

Forgi/ve me

for desiring the permanence of a birdwatcher’s catalogue

 

each line of pigment an absolute, a trail of ink

never slipping beyond / its typeset world. 

Sanjna Yechareddy

September for Beginners

After ‘November for Beginners’ by Rita Dove

My initiation into this nation 

begins with the fall of the first leaf

I don’t know how to box 

seasons into four, neat cartons 

So all I’ve brought with me

is a powdered blend 

of sandalwood, heat and rain

packed in my two, new suitcases. 

 

I’m not sad – yet.

Just newly arrived

on this island 

in this bronze skin 

in this blue sweater 

I buy in a store called Primark 

as I let conversions of currency 

loop and tighten 

around my neck

as my new scarf.  

How much does it cost 

to look like that woman

whose beige coat dances 

with her pearly reflection?

How much will be left 

in my heart’s purse after 

I have been awarded assimilation? 



I’m not sad – yet. 

Just hopelessly lost. 

So I follow the trail 

of cobbled stones heaving 

to unfamiliar heartbeats 

of leftover chips hung on

turning tartan leaves by seagulls 

until 

I reach a stall 

where a man with a 

slowly freezing smile 

hands me a red, glossy 

flier that neatly reads:

Three Ways of Coping with 

Seasonal Affective Disorder are:

            One: 

            Pretend that hearing sun in your name is the only sunshine you want to feel

            Two:

            Pretend that your latte has completely dissolved cinnamon’s colonial history 

            Three:

            Pretend to forget the direction of home as you sleepwalk amidst barren trees. 

Dean Atta

Word Association

Loving you is letting you

heat your cold hands and feet

against my bed-warm body.

I’ve been underneath the duvet for a while,

generating enough to share.

I’ve been looking through recipes

for beetroot soup, because a friend

gave us some from her allotment

but you don’t have time to cook this week.

Last week, we cooked together:

Maya Angelou’s Shepherd’s Pie,

which calls for bacon as well as minced beef,

a layer of mashed potatoes

on the bottom as well as on the top.

Loving you is not about

who is bottom and who is top.

It’s about finding ways to be together,

when sex isn’t what either of us feel like.

Loving you is word association games:

you tell me you’re a cold bean.

I say you’re Mr Bean.

You say: Sean Bean.

I say: Been there and done that.

You can’t think of a come back.

I rap:

‘It’s been a long time

we shouldn’t of left you

without a dope beat to step to

(step to, step to, step to)’

I sing:

‘Been around the world and I, I, I

I can’t find my baby’

You laugh, and hold me tighter.

Your hands and feet are warm.

Sean Wai Keung

A home

to finish the house and turn it into a home first you have to switch

on the gas cooker and take the well-seasoned wok

your mum gave you when you first moved out and begin

to heat it w/ oil

you must open your fridge filled with the ingredients that made you

broccoli you learned to love as a kid and bean paste you only discovered

a few weeks ago

the rest of the world may be coming round to taste what you cook tonight

but it will be by your invitation only

and this time they will not bring spray paint or bricks to throw

or insults to hurl or assumptions about who you are

instead they will bring three oranges with them just like you were taught to

along with a wee dram of laphroaig for first-footing

because this meal will mark the start

and it will only ever finish

when you want it to finish

Nasim Rebecca Asl

Postmatch

My brother and I picked up our tools. On tiptoes

he gathered supplies like bundles of wood: toys, lamps,

pillows all spilling from the shoots of his arms.

I struck gold in the warm void of the airing cupboard

and brought him our mother’s favourite cotton sheet.

Our hands worked quickly to reassemble his bedroom,

rebuilding a cavern under his desk, silence nestled

between us. Cushions strewn like leaves in a forest

were our thrones. The smell of Persil dripped like rain

over our grass-stained knees. We drowned out the thunder

of our father with the crinkle, rustle of cheese and onion

crisps. Together, we roosted under a canopy of fairylights,

warmed ourselves in the glow of Nintendo DS and whispered

cheat codes to each other until late into the night.

Sanjay Lago

The Doors in my House

The ringing of the singing bowl. 

Entering the threshold.

Removing the veil.

60 Years since you migrated.

Each door a story integrated.

A wedding in the backroom.

The ringing of the singing bowl.

An ill child in the front room.

The ringing of the singing bowl.

Each door, each story, our home.

Find out more and connect with the poets…