Book of the Month – November 2020

Poor by Caleb Femi

This month's choice is Poor by Caleb Femi

In his debut collection, Caleb Femi combines poetry and original photography to explore the trials, tribulations, dreams and joys of young Black boys in twenty-first century Peckham.

Poor contemplates the ways in which the South London youth are informed by the built environment of concrete walls and gentrifying neighbourhoods that form their stage. Caleb writes a coded, near-mythical history of the personalities and sagas of his childhood community, and pays tribute to the rappers and artists who spoke to their lives.

What is it like to grow up in a place where the same police officer who told your primary school class they were special stops and searches you at 13 because 'you fit the description of a man' – and where it is possible to walk two and a half miles through an estate of 1,444 homes without ever touching the ground?

"Caleb is a mighty and positive force in UK culture and this is a vital book" – Max Porter, author of Grief Is the Thing with Feathers and Lanny.

Buy the book

Alternatively, please buy the book from your local bookshop or borrow it from your local library. Please check opening times and availability in advance.

Read it? Loved it? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using #HayBookoftheMonth.


BOOK OF THE MONTH Q&A with Caleb Femi talking to Max Porter took place on 10 November 2020

Watch the event again below or on Hay Player.

Further reading

Rethink: Caleb Femi says 'creative thinking' is key to students' future, BBC News (2020)

Caleb Femi On Rethinking and Rebuilding Our Education System, Bustle (2020)

Poet Caleb Femi named first young people's laureate for London, Guardian (2016)

About the author

Caleb Femi is a poet and director featured in the Dazed 100 list of the next generation shaping youth culture. He has written and directed short films commissioned by the BBC and Channel 4 and poems by the Tate Modern, the Royal Society for Literature, St Paul's Cathedral, the BBC, the Guardian and many more. Between 2016 and 2018, Caleb was the Young People’s Laureate for London. He wrote the liner material for Kano’s 2019 album, Hoodies All Summer and was the face of the 2019 Mulberry Christmas advert. This is his first book.

About Hay Festival's Book of the Month

Hay Festival's Book of the Month is our monthly recommendation of a title we love and think holds particular resonance today. This is our chance to celebrate great works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry – new and old.

Throughout the month, we'll share interesting links and articles relating to our selection on social media using #HayBookoftheMonth and invite you all to get involved with your questions and comments.

Each month we'll have a free digital event with the author for you to ask them questions and explore their ideas further.

If you'd like to recommend a book for consideration, please share on social media using #HayBookOfTheMonth.

Happy reading!