Kei Miller

Image by Martin Figura

Kei Miller

b. 1978

...and the poem will not care that some walk past/afraid of the words we try out on our tongues/ hoping this finally is the language of God, /that he might hear it and respond. Kei Miller, from 'Speaking in Tongues'.

What the evangelist should have said

Kei Miller


Speaking in Tongues

Kei Miller


Some Definitions for Song

Kei Miller

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About Kei Miller

"Raise high the roofbeams, here comes a strong new presence in poetry," wrote Lorna Goodison when Kei Miller burst onto the poetry scene with his 2006 debut Kingdom of Empty Bellies. Miller was born in Jamaica in 1978 and read English at the University of the West Indies, before completing an MA at Manchester Metropolitan University. He has said in interview with Nicholas Laughlin, that the title and the themes of his first collection, stem from his belief that "so much of what is beautiful [in the Caribbean] comes out of depression and emptiness." In 2007, he edited Carcanet's New Caribbean Poetry Anthology - a sparkling showcase for a range of Caribbean identities and experiences.

Kei Miller's second collection There is an Anger that Moves, begins with the sequence 'In This Country', which explores an incomer’s experience of moving to the UK. First there is alienation: "In this country you have an accent; /in the pub, a woman mocks it." then made exotic :"In this country on a Saturday night / you are usually the best dancer; /it was not so back home." and finally celebrated: "they say - / you are like ointment in a deep wound. /They say your dance is like a cure." Olive Senior lauds this collection as "radiant utterance that speaks of island experiences and gender politics from a deep well of understanding, with empathy, humour and insight."

Also an acclaimed short story writer and novelist, his first collection of short fiction, The Fear of Stones, was short-listed in 2007 for the Commonwealth Writers First Book Prize. There are evidently important conversations between the forms he uses; in one interview Miller has said that he "started writing poetry to become a better fiction writer," while at University, and then he "started drumming to become a better poet."

In A Laureate's Legacy - a Radio 4 programme about the Poetry Archive, Kei Miller says that for him, poetry is a kind of music, going on to say that "the Archive is perhaps reminding us that words are sounds...and a poem that doesn't rise off the page…is in fact a dead poem." Of Miller's stage presence, Laughlin writes: "…then he looked up at the audience, began to speak...his powerful voice was more like a preacher's, or a prophet's, and his words were electric, unsparing and soul-piercing music."

This Archive recording is strong evidence of how Miller's poems inhabit sound, and his speaking voice brings to life beautifully, the warm music of the Jamaican English of his homeland.

This recording was made at the Audio Workshop, London on March 27th 2009 and produced by Richard Carrington.

Kei Miller's Favourite Poetry Saying:

"Write down the vision, make it plain, so that he who readeth may run " - Old Testament

Additional material and useful links

Caribbean Poetry Project

This pioneering collaboration between the Cambridge University Faculty of Education, the Centre for Commonwealth Education and the University of the West Indies aims to help teachers develop their...

Carribean Poetry Conference, Cambridge - 2012

A conference on Caribbean Poetry took place in Cambridge in September 2012. Speakers and performers included John Agard, Beverley Bryan, Christian Campbell, Kei Miller, Mervyn Morris, Grace Nichols,...

Selected bibliography

Dear World and Everyone In It, Bloodaxe, 2013


A Light Song of Light, Carcanet, 2010

There is an Anger That Moves Carcanet Press, 2007


Kingdom of Empty Bellies, Heaventree Press, 2006



Forward Prize for Best Collection 2014


Kei Miller

Kei Miller Reading from His Poems

1“This is an apology…”


3A Who She Sammy Dead?

4From the ‘Church Women’ sequence: Uphill; Shouting;War Dance; Mourning; Marching

5Speaking in Tongues

6The Lost Prophecy of Alexander Bedward

7Some Definitions for Song

8Some Definitions for Light

9From the Sequence In This Country: i How we became the pirates; ii After all you do not know; iii Always under your breath; iv The only thing far away; v Your dance is like a cure

10The Broken

11What the evangelist should have said

12The Silent Things

13In praise of the revolutionary properties of ice cream, but in particular, the flavour Chunky Monkey

14In Praise of the Contribution of Pots

15An Allowance for Ula-May

16The Death of a Fish Woman

A tour of the Archive with Clive James

The writer and broadcaster Clive James introduces a few of his favourite poems in the Poetry Archive.

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