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Former Barking schoolboy in running for 2017 Costa Book Awards

PUBLISHED: 12:25 28 November 2017 | UPDATED: 12:25 28 November 2017

Kayo Chingonyi. Picture: Naomi Woddis

Kayo Chingonyi. Picture: Naomi Woddis

Naomi Woddis

A former pupil at Robert Clack School has been shortlisted for a major literary award.

Kayo Chingonyi, 30, was shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award for his debut collection Kumukanda.

“Energetic, skilled, tender and bold – this is an outstanding collection by a major new talent,” said judges.

Zambian-born Kayo moved to the UK at the age of six.

His love of unpicking poetry to relish in its messages and meanings was evident during his time at the Gosfield Road, Dagenham school.

“Not only did he love literature but he had a perceptive and sensitive understanding of language,” said one of his former English teachers.

He left Robert Clack Sixth Form in 2005, going on to deliver lectures and readings at venues around the world.

In 2012 he represented Zambia at Poetry Parnassus, a festival of world poets staged by the Southbank Centre as part of the Cultural Olympiad, and the same year received the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize.

Three years later, he served as Associate Poet at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA).

Race, music, masculinity and grief are common themes in his work.

Kumukanda (meaning ‘initiation’), for example, takes its name from the rites of passage a young boy from the Luvale tribe must pass through before he is considered a man.

The collection includes Self-Portrait as a Garage Emcee, in which he remembers his childhood practising rap lyrics “under his breath” at night: “In time, I could rattle off The Slim Shady LP line for line, / though no amount of practise could conjure the pale skin / and blue eyes that made Marshall a poet / and me another brother who could rhyme.”

Poet Jane Draycott, who judged the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize the year Kayo won, said: “His language is wonderfully searching, his imagery a series of small doors opening onto a whole house echoing with harmonic play and set with delicate rhythmic trip wires.”

Kayo is the author of two pamphlets, Some Bright Elegance (2012) and The Colour of James Brown’s Scream (2016).

Winners of the Costa Book Awards will be announced on January 2.

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