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Kayo Chingonyi: ‘The most formalist poetry I have been exposed to is rap lyrics’

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The winner of the Dylan Thomas prize explains how his poems are infused with the rhythms and rhymes of garage, grime and hip-hop

When Kayo Chingonyi was awarded the £30,000 Dylan Thomas prize for his debut poetry collection, Kumukanda, he used his acceptance speech to thank some of his former school teachers, including one who had given him a copy of Thomas’s play for voices Under Milk Wood. “I was very grateful for that, it led me to Thomas’s poetry,” Chingonyi says; he was delighted and surprised to have come out ahead of fellow shortlisted authors including Sally Rooney and Gwendoline Riley for the prize awarded to writers aged 39 or under, the age Thomas was when he died. “I was also grateful that these teachers shared their enthusiasms with me. A lot of what I write is embedded in my wanting to share enthusiasms.”

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