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A much-anticipated debut collection of beautifully crafted and powerful poems, from a writer of tremendous talent and promise

*Winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize 2018*
*Shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Prize 2017*

‘Urban and urbane, it’s a magnificent debut’ Daily Telegraph

‘A brilliant debut – a tender, nostalgic and at times darkly hilarious exploration of black boyhood, masculinity and grief – from one of my favourite writers’ – Warsan Shire

Translating as ‘initiation’, kumukanda is the name given to the rites a young boy from the Luvale tribe must pass through before he is considered a man. The poems of Kayo Chingonyi’s remarkable debut explore this passage: between two worlds, ancestral and contemporary; between the living and the dead; between the gulf of who he is and how he is perceived.

Underpinned by a love of music, language and literature, here is a powerful exploration of race, identity and masculinity, celebrating what it means to be British and not British, all at once.

*Shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre First Poetry Collection Prize 2018*
*Shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry 2018*
*Shortlisted for the Roehampton Poetry Prize 2018*
*Shortlisted for the Jhalak Prize 2018*

*Selected as a 2017 Book of the Year in the Guardian and Daily Telegraph*


A brilliant debut – a tender, nostalgic and, at times, darkly hilarious exploration of black boyhood, masculinity and grief. A gorgeous and necessary collection from one of my favourite writers

Warsan Shire

[A] wonderful debut… A subtle and affecting, lyrical and powerful collection that explores boyhood, rites of passage, the ancient and the modern world

Jackie Kay, Observer

A remarkable year for first collections. The best, for this reader, was Kayo Chingonyi’s Kumukanda… Whether recalling his parents’ deaths or celebrating the art of the mixtape, Chingonyi’s poise is astonishing

Tristram Fane Saunders, Daily Telegraph

Full of nostalgia and gentleness as well as being sharply observant


Navigating the experience of growing up with music, flair and a jaw-dropping formal range, this collection is a thing of beauty

Maria Crawford, Financial Times

The book emerges as being about memory and identity in the best and broadest sense… Chingonyi’s poetic voice and style are both highly entertaining and adaptable mixing form with free verse and jargon with slang… But for all its lyrical elegance and at times mannered diction, this is angry and defiant writing, determined to “master the language”, as “The Cricket Test” has it, of privileged white male canonical literature as if to prove a point… Chingonyi goes one better, using his lyric panache to honour pop references and cultural experiences of personal and communal significance while also turning the tables, casting a wry and intelligent eye on our wider attitudes… These terse, memorable poems are testament to the best of Chingonyi’s gifts. Impassioned, witty, socially and politically engaged…the poems turn irony to impressive effect in dissecting our dubious “post-race moment”… Kumukanda is an authentic and convincing book of poems in its many nuanced portrayals and unflinching reflections; rarely is it content to gloss or deceive… Kumukanda is an intricate and intense collection, heady with feeling but guided by thoughtful reflection

Ben Wilkinson, Guardian

Chingonyi’s poems are full of questions that need asking. His gift is for pushing poems further than you expected them to go. [A] striking quest of a debut

Poetry Book of the Month, Kate Kellaway, Observer

Powerful… These poems are essential and urgent and shine a light on British culture in an unique and spellbinding way

Elle, â??10 'Woke' Works Of Literature You Need To Add To Your Reading List This Yearâ??

Kumakanda is an essential collection from one of the UK's most exciting poets. Kayo's poetry is beautiful, thoughtful, musical and nostalgic

Nikesh Shukla

A wonderful debut: music, race, deracination, love and death are all woven into a compelling portrait of a young man growing up, rendered in poems that are elegant yet conversational, fluent yet profoundly skillful, touched with heart-stopping lyricism. For the reader, an initiation not to be missed

Henry Shukman

When James Baldwin described the writer's goal as stringing together sentences that were as clean as a bone, he wasn't to know that poet Kayo Chingonyi's debut collection Kumukanda would achieve exactly that

Rianna Jade Parker, Vice UK

Exceedingly powerful; by turns furious, tender and bittersweet, taking as it does the overall theme of in-betweens. Ancestry versus contemporary rites of passage. The ambiguous versus the undeniable. Who you are, and who you choose to be seen as, versus who others perceive you to be

Clare Mulley, Skinny

The title poem Kumukanda is elegant, eloquent and moving... For all the particularity of his subject matters and his openness in exploring them, it’s the fine and sophisticated writing that makes me return to these poems

Jane Routh, Magma Poetry

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback


    June 15, 2017

    Chatto & Windus

    64 pages

    RRP $24.99

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Set the Boy Free
David Jason: My Life
Greetings to Our Friends in Brazil
Then She Was Gone
Long Road from Jarrow
The January Man
Speaking Out
A Walk in the Park
Wild Kingdom
A Sky Full of Birds
The Iliad
Party Animals
In Pursuit of the Truth
The Secret Train Robber
Introducing George The Poet
Charles: The Heart of a King
A Man Walks On To a Pitch
Only When I Laugh: My Autobiography