An admired poet and performer, Sam-La Rose has appeared at a wide range of venues and festivals, including Kiasma (Finland), the Centre of Contemporary Art (Glasgow), London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Aldeburgh Literary Festival, the Gwendolyn Brooks Writers’ Conference (Chicago), and The URB Festival (Helsinki). His poems have been published in Identity Parade – New British & Irish Poets; Penguin’s Poems For Love; I Have Found A Song; Learn Then Burn: The Ultimate Poetry Guide for the High School or College Classroom; and Michael Rosen’s A-Z: The Best Children’s Poetry from Agard to Zephaniah, among many other anthologies and journals. His first pamphlet Communion was a Poetry Book Society selection in 2006, and was described by the judges as “fresh, vivid and masterly in its evocation of contemporary Britain”, and as “a thoughtful, pensive and carefully structured collection, where the finest poems quietly but firmly capture relationships in all of their tenuousness, tenderness, disappointments and promise” by Lauri Ramey. His work is grounded in a belief that poetry can be a powerful force within a community, and has united in praise the sometimes divided strands of ‘performance’ and ‘page’ poetry, proving it is possible to combine the immediacy of performance with the rigor of poetry on the page.
He has described himself as the product of a post-colonial Caribbean work ethic passed down from his mother, something that has morphed into his own rigorous professional drive. “My work as a poet came to mean more than just being the best writer I could be. For it to exist in the real world, my work has to be bigger than myself, in the same way that so many of my elders worked for the benefit of future generations – and so it extends into changing mainstream attitudes towards poetry, and helping to nurture other emerging poets.” It is this generosity of spirit and collectivist outlook that sets him apart from many other poets and performers – Sam-La Rose is an active, participatory force in the literary world whose dedicated efforts to include young people in the practice and possibilities of poetry have touched many.
In this recording for the Poetry Archive, Sam-La Rose's understated yet forceful poetic gifts are brought to the fore by a reading style that is measured, intimate and concise. The poems are highly articulate constructions with an elegant sense of phrase, and a considered, reasoning tone, which steers language towards various emotional truths, realising the logic of genuine and nuanced feelings, often particular to the contemporary era. Sam-La Rose achieves this via virtuosic leaps and image-making, in work that is consistently generous and surprising.
Sam-La Rose's collection Breaking Silence was published by Bloodaxe in Autumn, 2011.