SugarJ Poet, 22, is a Croydon-based spoken word artist who was recently featured in the Nationwide building society’s ‘Voices of the People’ ad campaign that celebrates the voices and stories of ordinary people.
The poem that has brought the young artist the most attention is ‘Face to Face’, which looks at how we have become the loneliest society in history due to the invention of mobile connectivity. ‘The poem is literally my thought process after hearing someone on a TED talk say that we are the most lonely society in history.
‘I immediately picked up my phone and thought: how can we be the loneliest society when within a matter of seconds, I can message a friend and get an instant response.’ (See his poignant performance here.)
SugarJ Poet became a spoken word artist after completing his Politics and International Relations degree at University of Westminster. ‘I feel like a lot of the skills I learnt in my degree were transferable to poetry because it taught me the importance of reading to research.’
One particular work stood out. ‘After studying the ‘Wretched of the Earth’ a book by Frantz Fanon, who provides a psychiatric analysis of the dehumanising effects of colonisation upon the individual, my perception of the world changed and I became more informed. His psychological examination made me look deeper into words, and that’s what I try to do when I write poetry.’
In July 2016, BBC 1xtra and Roundhouse brought together some of the best young poets in London for a weeklong workshop (run by story writer Yomi Sode and radio presenter Laurie Bolger). This saw the rise of the new London-based poetry collective ‘Spit the Atom’ that consists of some of London’s most talented wordsmiths.
‘After such a great performance we wanted to start a collective so we made it happened. We all met up, decided on a name and from there Spit the Atom has made such great progress.’
Not only has SugarJ Poet become a residential artist at Roundhouse in Camden, his collective Spit the Atom are hosts to a monthly poetry night at SLAM in King’s Cross. SugarJ has also graced the stage at many festivals and theatre’s across London including venues in Tower Hamlets such as LoveBox festival, Shuffle festival and Genesis Cinema. He also represents the youth of Croydon by showing them that poetry can be amusing and enjoyable for all ages. And who knows, maybe one day SugarJ Poet will join the list of literary greats from Croydon, such as Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
For SugarJ Poet, the ending of 2016 will see him perform at the PAD in Dagenham (see here for details). ‘The performance will be a cross-arts night, with a number of poets and musicians improvising movement and sound to create a phenomenal artistic effect that no one has ever seen before. I will perform alongside poet Emmanuel Sugo (member of the East London Shakespeare Company).’
As for future projects, SugarJ Poet is currently working on a new film project. ‘I’m collaborating with filmmaker Vikesh Govind on a short film that reflects on how we as individuals live our lives shrouded in masks that deceive how we really feel. The aim is to use visuals that illustrate the poems meaning. The piece pays homage and traces its roots back to home in Croydon.’ We can’t wait to see it.