In the past year or so, we’ve showcased some incredibly talented Muslim poets and spoken word artists whose writing grips us from the first to the last line.
On 4 October, the UK will recognise National Poetry. This is great news, because it gives us one more excuse to plug another poet whose verse moves us to new emotional levels. The theme for this year is “change”, and there are few better examples of change than a story of personal redemption.
On that note, we would like to introduce you to the poetry of Jamal Khan.
Khan hails from east London. Through incisive and sensitive writing, his poetry covers subjects as broad and complex as knife crime, mental health, love and masculinity. For this reason, Khan has won awards and been featured on 1Xtra, BBC Four and MTV.
Khan’s poem, “How Deep Is Your Love?”, is particularly affecting, as it grapples with possibly the most confusing, profound and misinterpreted human emotion of them all:
There is one line that really sticks with us:
‘I used to ask myself when I was physically confined: “Where are the postal orders, letters and visits?”’
When he was younger, Khan spent some time in prison. While he was inside, he kept a journal that would set the groundwork for a lot of his writing. A poem like “How Deep Is Your Love?” feels all the more significant when you learn of his past – a person must gain a whole new perspective on love when they no longer have the freedom to be with those who love them.
Now, Khan uses poetry as a tool to change the perspectives of others. He has performed for organisations that aim to tackle issues surrounding mental health and crime, largely because writing helped him deal with his own struggles relating to these subjects.
Last month, he performed at an event hosted by Safe Ground, an organisation that delivers arts-based programmes for people in prison. Art has the power to change lives – Khan is living proof of this – and his contribution to a cause like Safe Ground reflects his belief in this idea.
Next month, Khan’s debut book will be released. Words Within Walls is a collection of diary entries, short stories and poems from the journals he kept during his time in prison. Much of the writing deals with his struggles with mental health and how poetry became a form of therapy for him.
But above all else, the book serves as an example of the transformative power of poetry.
While poetry can discuss change, it also has the power to affect it.
To celebrate the launch of Words Within Walls, London’s City Hall will host a reading and Q&A with Khan on 29 November. For more info about the event, click here.
Don’t forget to follow Khan on Instagram.