George the Poet: ‘Poetry is the artistic wing of politics’ Culture | The Guardian

He performed at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding and was offered an MBE before he turned 30 – but the writer is ready to head in a more radical direction

Who is George the Poet? A few years ago, the answer to that question would have been straightforward – he’s a beloved Cambridge-educated Ugandan-British spoken word artist, whose lyrical social commentary about British life had reached such a wide audience that he was invited to read a love poem at the 2018 royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. He’s a writer and musician, born George Mpanga in 1991, whose poetry has been commissioned by the likes of Sky Sports F1, and who was offered an MBE. Today, defining Mpanga by those achievements feels problematic, largely because of how critical the 33-year-old poet is of his own rise to fame. “I got all sorts of privileges, awards, little nods, passes and pats on the back from the establishment,” he says now. “Going to Cambridge – these things are signifiers. The more I learned, the more I realised that none of it was a coincidence. Yes, I took myself to university. I made myself become a poet. But you can’t separate [my success] from its political utility to conservative interests.”

Mpanga is now also a successful podcaster and PhD candidate (he’s currently researching how Black music can be used across the Black world for a better future, at University College London), and he has recently become a father. But one label he once embraced but is now keen to reject is that of “good immigrant” – a person who works hard, stays out of trouble, and is rewarded for it. “[I] rose to fame with non-threatening poems that criticised my own community for the problems it faced. I presented a narrative that aligned with ruling-class interests. I made the system look good. All those people claiming that racism and poverty were holding them back just needed to be more like me.”

Continue reading… 

Read More