skip to main content

I Am Evidence by Courtney Conrad

I Am Evidence by Courtney Conrad


'The voice is so powerful and individual, it leaps off the page.' IMTIAZ DHARKER, FOR BLOODAXE BOOKS, PUBLISHER OF THE WINNING PAMPHLET

Selected poem from the winning pamphlet

Babylon wah tun us inna Rasta Mouse

Step inna one dance fi hold a medz
and di MC bawl out Jah, Rastafari,
praise to di most high, Selesai.
Before him, a sea of tweed caps clutch locks,
button-down linen shirts flaunt chest hairs and gold chains.
This cramped garage: sanctuary for slow sways, prayerful eyes,
and ganja. Okra tongues provoke boasy bwoy’s peace,
he backs out cutlass like a handkerchief.
MC seh, nuh war to wi ting, just love and unity
and di Irie vibes carry on.

Blonde neighbour summons her pack
and bawls Jesus off di cross
like seh lions a prowl through di sound system.
Babylon’s batons bash doors their speaky-spokey accents,
turn off this racket.
Ras dem disperse like mad ants,
some faces get ketch under Babylon’s boots,
speaky-spokey accents, go back to your country.
If flatten bodies on concrete coulda mek a boat
Babylon’s spit woulda send dem sailing home, long time.


How I did it

I started going to spoken-word poetry events when I was studying social policy at Birmingham University. I googled lots of US poets and started practising in the shower, putting my phone on to record and speaking my feelings in a kind of rap. Then I joined a poetry slam team, which gave me the confidence to apply to the Round House Slam programme in London. At that time I was performing with an American accent, because of all the videos I was watching, and the Trinidadian poet Roger Robinson challenged me, saying 'Where are you from? Where are you really from?'. 

I didn’t know what I wanted to say, or what I could say. So he told me to write 100 poems to find out. 

During lockdown I decided to make the transition to page poetry. I’m highly dyslexic so studying has always been a challenge. On a bad day pages look like alphabet soup. But I will inhale poetry collections. 

I have been working full-time in Buckinghamshire, which is a three-hour commute each way, so I had six hours on the train every day to work on my poems.

I played water polo for the Jamaican national team before migrating to the UK – so I’m used to training long hours. After I’d written 100 poems, I started submitting and getting published, but shame was holding the pen and prevented me from going deeper. I wanted to speak the truth of Jamaica and not shy away from difficult topics. So my poetry now is a mixture of my own experiences and things that I read about in the Jamaican Gleaner newspaper. I’m just breaking out of the idea that this is a hobby. I recently went on a writing retreat that focused on the intentionality of being a writer, on not belittling your craft, and giving it the time and dedication it deserves.

COURTNEY CONRAD is a Jamaican poet who now lives in London. She received a Bridport Prize Young Writer Award in 2021. Her poems have appeared in Magma, White Review, Poetry Review and elsewhere. 

I Am Evidence is available to buy now, direct from and other major outlets.

Highly Commended

  • Daughters of Jerusalem by Sarah Mnatzaganian
  • Foreign & Domestic by Sarah Stewart
  • Through All This by Kate Rutter
  • Call Me Lady by Laurie Bolger
  • 14 Sonnets by Marie-Louise Eyres


Meet the winners of all competitions