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Kumukanda by Kayo Chingonyi review – a striking initiation

The Zambian-born British poet proves himself much more than ‘another brother who can rhyme’ in this assured debut

I first came across Kayo Chingonyi at the Coronet – once a seedy cinema in Notting Hill Gate, now home to the Print Room and a bohemian den of unexpected charm where, once a month, a trio of poets reads aloud. It is a wonderful destination for poets, and Chingonyi has the huge advantage of being a natural performer. He reads his poems with an immediacy that gives each one to you like a present (sample his extraordinary performance at the South Bank with dancer Sean Graham).

His delivery is the opposite of the wistful singsong that has become chronic at poetry readings (so many poets would benefit from the attention of a really good theatre director). My particular pet hate is the way poets meaninglessly turn the last words in each line upwards to sound like a question that did not need to be asked.

Related: Man Booker prize 2017 and poet Kayo Chingonyi – books podcast

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