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Untold Stories: Poetry at English Heritage

Untold Stories – Poetry at English Heritage took place in the autumn of 2020. Through new commissions, a poetry exchange and a public competition the programme allowed us to experience English Heritage sites in new ways and offered opportunities for everyone to explore our past through poetry. The programme was co-curated by Jacob Sam-La Rose, English Heritage’s Poet in Residence. This digital anthology brings together a collection of works written as part of the programme. It features poems written in Shout Out Loud workshops led by Malika Booker; as part of the Untold Stories Poetry Competition; and by commissioned poets Esme Allman, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Jay Bernard, Malika Booker, Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa and Jacob Sam-La Rose. english-heritage.org.uk/untold-stories

Untold Stories – Poetry at English Heritage took place in the autumn of 2020. Through new commissions, a poetry exchange and a public competition the programme allowed us to experience English Heritage sites in new ways and offered opportunities for everyone to explore our past through poetry. The programme was co-curated by Jacob Sam-La Rose, English Heritage’s Poet in Residence.

This digital anthology brings together a collection of works written as part of the programme. It features poems written in Shout Out Loud workshops led by Malika Booker; as part of the Untold Stories Poetry Competition; and by commissioned poets Esme Allman, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Jay Bernard, Malika Booker, Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa and Jacob Sam-La Rose.

english-heritage.org.uk/untold-stories

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Introduction<br />

jacob sam-la rose<br />

Any cre<strong>at</strong>ive endeavour typically<br />

shares something with the structure of an<br />

iceberg. You know the age-old allusion:<br />

faced with the part of the iceberg th<strong>at</strong><br />

rises above sea level, we all too often<br />

ignore its submarinal bulk, the larger<br />

part th<strong>at</strong> remains beyond view. It’s been<br />

a long road from the initial convers<strong>at</strong>ions<br />

I had <strong>at</strong> the end of 2019 with Dominique<br />

Bouchard, Head of Learning and<br />

Interpret<strong>at</strong>ion, about an <strong>English</strong> <strong>Heritage</strong><br />

poetry residency. We spoke about digging<br />

deep into wh<strong>at</strong> <strong>English</strong>ness has been<br />

and is becoming, and (with a nod to the<br />

submarinal mass I just mentioned) an<br />

effort to reach towards the unheard and<br />

unseen, those voices and narr<strong>at</strong>ives th<strong>at</strong><br />

are an irrefutable part of <strong>English</strong> history<br />

but have remained below a threshold of<br />

visibility or broad acknowledgement.<br />

As we returned to planning l<strong>at</strong>er<br />

in 2020 and considered how to move<br />

forward in spite of the uncertainty of a<br />

pandemic, the vision for the programme<br />

evolved, and we engaged with the realities<br />

of making it happen. There were the<br />

practical challenges th<strong>at</strong> arose from trying<br />

to do justice to research and writing in<br />

response to <strong>English</strong> <strong>Heritage</strong> sites without<br />

the physical access we would have had <strong>at</strong><br />

any other time. Beyond those practicalities<br />

lay other, more nuanced consider<strong>at</strong>ions:<br />

the increased sense of weight for those<br />

poets confronting painful narr<strong>at</strong>ives <strong>at</strong><br />

the intersection of <strong>English</strong> and Black<br />

history as Black writers, <strong>at</strong> a time in<br />

which institutional racism, brutality and<br />

questions around the rel<strong>at</strong>ive value of<br />

human life were once again foregrounded<br />

as present, lived experience. Suffice to say,<br />

much of the work these poems depend<br />

on isn’t visible on these pages and yet<br />

deserves to be acknowledged.<br />

There is a wealth of poetry and<br />

perspective g<strong>at</strong>hered in this anthology,<br />

traversing history and heritage, pitching<br />

back through time while interrog<strong>at</strong>ing and<br />

even refuting reverber<strong>at</strong>ions of the past<br />

within a living present. These collected<br />

works speak beyond the pages on which<br />

they are positioned. And there’s always<br />

more th<strong>at</strong> can be said.<br />

5

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