Books / Poetry

Birdspeed completes remarkable hat-trick of poetry prizes

By joe melia, Tuesday Aug 20, 2019

Bristol poet, Safiya Kinshasa aka Birdspeed, has become the first poet ever to win a stunning ‘triple crown’ of prestigious poetry prizes in the same year.

Birdspeed secured the hat-trick by winning the recent BBC Edinburgh Fringe Slam Championship at the Edinburgh Festival. This latest award follows her win at Hammer & Tongue’s UK National Slam Championship and BBC 1 Extra/BBC Asian Network’s Talent Search earlier this year.

Of her BBC Edinburgh Fringe Slam triumph, Birdspeed says: “I am honoured to have won such a coveted award and believe it is a testament to hard work and serious dedication. I have sacrificed a great deal to be able to have accomplished so much in such a short amount of time and I intend to keep going.

“The best part of the evening was being able to bring to light mental health issues in the black community. I want to continue to use larger platforms to start important conversations while moving people. I’m on a mission and it has been an amazing adventure so far.”

And on the Edinburgh audience’s reaction to her performances, she says: “The audience gave a standing ovation at the end and I must admit I was wondering how they might respond to my narratives. I was not holding back at all and spoke the truth about what it means to be a black woman in a world that treats black women like another species.

“I think that is my superpower, being able to engage with people in helping them to understand issues which they would otherwise not be privy to really understanding. People do poetry about identity all the time, but sometimes it feels like audiences are not listening especially if the poem comes across as disingenuous. I think people love my honesty, my storytelling and they feel every word knowing it comes from the heart. Anyone who has read my work or heard me read knows that.”

Birdspeed has received widespread congratulations from fellow Bristol poets following her unique achievement. Bristol City Poet, Vanessa Kisuule, tweeted: “Birdspeed is an unstoppable force, you know. Move out the way and let the brilliance blaze through”, while Stephen Lightbown commented: “Huge congratulations. This is such a brilliant and well deserved achievement.”

Read more: Bristol Poet to Broadcast a poem a day for Black History Month

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