I am sitting here finally writing this and as I think of what I want to say, I realise that once again I don’t really regard myself as a children’s poet, but somehow I have been able to be active for a long time working with young people in primary and secondary schools as well as colleges and Universities. So how did all this happen?
For one thing, during my time in school, I never had an author visit, I never did a poetry lesson or even read poetry. I went to Burton End Primary School in Haverhill, Suffolk up until year 3 and then I was taken to live with my father in Lagos, Nigeria unexpectedly and over there I never did a lesson of poetry either.
It was my discovery of rap music that made me want to pick up a pen and write any kind of verse and it was my older cousin’s influence that inspired me further to love putting words together. Thankfully my discovery of rap was at the time it was more playful and about having a positive message. Many people don’t know Hip Hop leans towards learning and communicating a message and it was this fact together with my older cousin that sparked up my imagination.
The Hip Hop artists themselves would talk about their verses as poetry and would refer to poetic devices they were using in their verses (metaphors, similes etc) and it made me pay attention much closer in English class. In fact, my academic writing in school improved so much, I ended up having my essays read out in class by my Year 4 teacher and in secondary school I represented my school in essay writing competitions.
As I grew, I would write so much on my own, it was very therapeutic and such an amazing personal journey of discovering that I have a place to channel my personal thoughts and feelings in such a fun and enjoyable way.
Soon I found friends in Year 10 and Year 11 who had similar interests and we would write verses in our spare time. It was all exciting. We just did it because we loved it, we never thought we could be actual artists at the time.
Fast forward to later on in life, I had a hip hop artist friend who was a mentor to me. He showed me that I could take my skills as a hip hop artist and poet into schools. I never knew artists like myself did that. When I got into schools and worked with young people, I found out it was an easy transition because I had memories of my cousin writing with me as some kind of foundation to stand on. I also could take my skills as a writer and performer and use them in an educational setting. Like I said earlier, the culture of Hip Hop lends itself to teaching and I was able to lean into that so easily.
I am able to work with young people of all ages because the joy of playing with words and shaping language I discovered through rap music is a joy they are all experiencing to some degree through the rap music they are listening to today. I was able to tap into my inner child and relate to them. I am able to communicate that enthusiasm I found as a child that has never left me.
The kind of artistic expression I bring is inclusive of everyone and it has a cool factor attached to it that I am very aware of. I guess I am able to do what I do because I stayed in touch with my inner child through this wonderful gift I found.
Karl Nova is an independent Hip Hop artist, poet and author. He received the CLiPPA poetry prize for his debut book “Rhythm And Poetry” in 2018 and also the Ruth Rendell award for his services to literary contribution in 2020. His second book “The Curious Case of Karl Nova” was nominated for CILIP Carnegie medal in 2022. He has widely travelled both nationally and internationally bringing the inspiration of written and spoken word to many.
He is known for his energetic, witty and relatable performances and delivers hip hop flavoured creative writing workshops in his own unique style.