Red is a veritable who's who in black British poetry. You might recognise names like Patience Agbabi, John Agard, Grace Nichols and Jackie Kay, perhaps even Bernardine Evaristo, John Lyons and Linton Kwesi Johnson. But never before have these poets appeared in such a comprehensive anthology of black British writers.
For me, it's the smaller names that provide the most interest. Wangui Wa Goro rubs shoulders with novelist Gemma Weekes, Raman Mundair shares pages with Jack Mapanje. Writers of all tropes are brought together and energised by their proximity to high school-curriculum names like Agard and Nichols.
Furthermore, the way the writers expand upon and interpret the theme of 'red' is an astonishing one. For Dorothea Smartt, it might be the colour of a car's rear lights, cast over a night-time street of foxes and shadows. For Jackie Kay it might be the colour of blood, coagulating in a lover buried beneath the stars.
Kwame Dawes, a prize-winning poet in his own right, has outdone himself in bringing together such exemplary poets. He has teamed up with Inscribe series editor and SABLE LitMag publisher Kadija George for this epic project. The poetry collected herein was developed through a writer development project housed by published Peepal Tree Press, so the poems within flow and complement each other naturally, rather than being brought together in an artificial process. The Inscribe programme took writers at a turning point in their careers, placed them side by side with success stories like those already mentioned, and helped work with them to develop this anthology. For me, this makes the anthology more than just a collection of poems. It makes it a chart for the growth and nurturing of modern black British poetry, and I for one salute Peepal Tree Press for that effort.
This is anthology about passion, death, pain, love, blood, rage and, more importantly, about being black in 21st Century Britain.