Words by Thandie Sibanda
Meet Simone Yasmin, a young lady from Leeds Yorkshire, a poet in all sense of fibre and being. Never to be outspoken or muted, Simone praises her fiery tongue and understanding of the world from her northern upbringing, Dominican and Antiguan grandparents, and her experiences as a Black woman. Delving into the creative sector, this poet and artist spoke to me about the current job climate as a poet, her aspirations, and how she uses her voice to speak on adversity in British society.
“If I was going through something or something was bothering me, I’d always write it down even if my mum and I had an argument. I was always writing for myself. I never considered that my writing could inspire others. When I’d voice it, people would tell me “that’s exactly how I was feeling.” It’s become a purpose thing and I’m trying to help people with it. I say I don’t put out poetry for myself anymore and it’s now a voice for the people.”
During quarantine and self-isolation, Simone has dedicated her time to be that “voice for the people” from sympathising with key workers, exploring racial injustice and boldly publicising their emotions through her poetry.
And I never thought the government would take back all the words said,
never thought they’d lose those hospital beds,
Didn’t think they’d gamble with people for profits instead.
The year is 2020
And we’ve all been saying
2020 vision: the year of clarity.
But I think its the year of irregularity
Coronavirus has highlighted disparity,
Distorted our perceived reality,
Shown us the global similarities in humanity.
Currently, at the cusp of finishing her masters, at the tender age of 22, Simone recognises the world is her oyster and has grown her audience since she first began public performances at 20. She also recognises the small opportunities available to creatives in poetry in the job sector.
“Opportunities have come, but they’ve all been free. That’s the struggle of finding people who will pay me; so many events in Leeds every week, but no one is willing to pay. I love my poems with all my heart, however it comes to the point where I ask; how do I push this forward and how do I make money from this?
If I could do this for a job, it would be great. I love it. I’d say there are fewer opportunities for paid published poets in magazines. I’m grateful for everything I’ve had so far, but I’m now looking for where I can take it to the next stage.”
Have you kept your performances to Leeds or do you tour the UK?
“At the moment I’ve kept it to Leeds. I was very nervous because I restarted [performing live] last May; being live on stage I’d overthink my voice etc. I really want to perform in London and it was initially all about creating links and surprisingly COVID 19 has really helped because I needed to form these relationships with other creatives and being online via Instagram live, I feel more comfortable branching out and meeting new people.
Do you start your work with a final piece? In the sense of is your first copy your final copy?
“What I put out is the final piece. For example if you look at my Instagram page it looks like I haven’t written poems for a while, but I write every week. I just like to practice them and make sure they’re polished by reading them constantly. I’m always writing but I’m only putting things out when they’re polished. I’m daring, sometimes I will take a piece to my mum and she’ll say “are you sure you want to say that?” and I always think if people unfollow me, they unfollow me. You don’t have to agree with what I have to say - I think all my pieces are controversial.”
“When people support my work, it brings me closer to them because they’ll have the same views. I also think with the internet, it’s important to put out work that you’re happy with, but people do screenshot and repost - you have to be careful!”
Do you have anything you’re currently working on?
“My recent work is around the Black Lives Matter movement and the death of George Flloyd, I’m still trying to decide what to say…I’m also basing my work around men, as a lot of it is focuses on feminism, so this time I’ve thought I should do some stuff for men’s mental health. Towards the end of the month, for pride, I’ll be working on content around the Black trans and queer community.”
How do you perfect your craft?
“My boyfriend comes to every one of my shows and records all of my performances. Whether I loved it or hate it, he records them so I can watch back and give myself feedback on what went well and what didn’t. I also like to look through my old poetry books and look into my growth.”
Mother earth has been crying,
Heavy grey raindrops
And trying to tell us, her children,
That she's dying
She has been dying for years
Crying out cold summers,
Warm winters and winter ice caps.
Crying oiled oceans and plastic seas.
She has been crying,
And begging for her children to listen.
And people stayed at home and reflected as they view the world from a distance.
Always wishing they could see the full-frame
Always wishing they could venture out again.
Mother Earth saw the careless danger of beings,
And placed them behind windows,
Only allowing them to consume the world with their minds,
And not their bottomless bellies.
“Poetry is literally my life, I don’t know what else I’d do - I love it!”
“I think I can see growth in myself and confidence. For example, I’ve always known about Apples and Snakes (spoken word trailblazers of artists) since I was 11 - but I’ve never had the confidence to do anything about it. Recently, I was in a poetry slam with some poets that I adore, they’ve never followed me back or interacted with my stuff, but I got further than them in a slam - that helped my confidence a lot - I need to stop putting myself down and recognise my talent.”
- Simone did confirm that these poets have now followed her back
Let’s talk about your art...
“I also love to paint, my style is abstract. I never used to paint, I'd do pencil portraits. My art teacher told me I needed to branch out and explore bold ideas and colour. I went to my mum’s friends studio and she gave me a huge canvas and a large paintbrush and wall paint. She told me it would deliberate and not to put the brush in the water. Everything has to be deliberate and any mistake you make can turn it into something - and it was one of the best paintings I’ve ever done.
Since then, If I’m feeling down or angry it’s my escape. It’s my way of getting my emotions on the page.”