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Subject to Change: 'Harsh' by Leke Oso Alabi

19 Oct 2018
2 min watch

The latest in the Subject to Change poetry series, Young Poet Leke Oso Alabi presents his poem 'Harsh'. 

What inspired your poem this month? 
For this poem, I wanted to explore the coarsening of political discourse, as well as discourse in general - the constant need to cut people down, ‘school’ or make others feel small.

Who do you think writes well on the topic of change? 
I admire the work of Suli Breaks and I think Andrew McMillian writes about personal transformation beautifully. I also admire how Kei Miller explores the relationship between politics and culture in ‘The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion’.

Poetry has provided me with a community

Why do you think poetry is a good way to talk about change? 
I think poetry is a good vehicle for the exploration of personal change - the concise nature of the genre forces the writer to continually ask, is that what I mean? Is that how I feel?

I’m not sure poetry is a medium that lends itself to the open exploration of political issues. I think there may be a spoken word culture (with its own set of norms and values) and I’m not sure where freedom fits into that. It seems as though certain political opinions are celebrated while others are silenced and I’d like to explore this in future work. 

How has poetry changed your life?
Poetry has provided me with a community. Although I may feel conflicted by aspects of it, I hope to be able to develop the skill and confidence needed to contribute to conversations that I feel are of importance. 


he wants to learn 
the taste of a bullet.
to shoot people down
with poetry
with the spoken word

to be careless
lift his chin 
and leave massacres 
in his wake

but he knows how it feels to be 
on the receiving end of an insult

he carries cities in his ribcage
filled with the chalk outlines of his former selves 

he wants to bulldoze the cities
peeking into the fleshy parts in his chest.

a friend tells him to consider the weight of a dream
or its absence of weight
and that eases the feeling in his chest
he discovers that his old selves are resting

he imagines his chest 
opening out like the roof of a toy house 

some lie in hospital beds
wish they could melt,
and sit,
like a patch of grass
or a puddle
in the middle
of a corridor
the smallest body
of water

the hospitalised selves sense someone,
or something
a shadow peeling itself from the polished floor
and watches
the nurses strut by
and hears one mutter
I think someone’s had an accident 

and then he thinks about all that he has
and that eases the feeling in his chest
on those days he wants the sky to open up 
and swallow him home.

Watch more Subject to Change

Discover more performances from our Young Poets as they respond to our changing times through poetry

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