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'POOR' by Caleb Femi (Poetry)


Caleb Femi is a poet and director and was the first Young People’s Laureate for London from 2016-2018. He features in the Dazed 100 list of the next generation shaping youth culture and has written and directed short films commissioned by the BBC and Channel 4 and poems by the Tate Modern, The Royal Society for Literature and St Paul's Cathedral. A true talent and rising star, POOR is Caleb’s debut collection.

POOR is a powerful poetry collection about community, joy and the realities of growing up as a Black boy in an inner-city. It’s a tribute to the world that shaped Caleb and is deeply rooted in his Peckham childhood, while also offering universal truths.


What we did

Our aim was to launch Caleb Femi’s POOR as the most exciting debut collection of the year and position him as a leading voice in culture today. To do this, we needed to not only engage the literary establishment but also move the coverage outside of the typical literary/poetry outlets, and engage Gen Z through media that would reach them directly.

Broadcast was key to ensure the poetry could be heard, with hugely impactful interviews secured on 6Music and R4 Start the Week, which propelled the book to No. 2 on Amazon’s Movers and Shakers, and key national press interviews in The Guardian and New Statesman.

With Caleb’s work incorporating photography and film as well as verse, the style press and in particular, high-profile podcasts with a focus on Black culture were also key to the campaign, which included Time To Talk, Over the Bridge and Books and Rhymes. We approached a range of media with bespoke pitches from Dazed to Complex, from Vogue to Huck, in addition to broadcast and social audiences including No Signal Radio and Jameela Jamil’s iWeigh Instagram bookclub – a huge coup for a debut poetry collection, with 1.3 million followers.

Caleb is a powerful communicator so we curated a raft of virtual events to reach literary and youth audiences, which included a Book of the Month event with the Hay Festival chaired by Max Porter, An In Conversation with Vanessa Kisuule for the Festival of Ideas, a launch event with the Peckham Theatre chaired by Brenda Emmanus and a Speakers for Schools event with Zawe Ashton.

The literary and poetry community of spoken word and traditional reviewers was not forgotten, with Book of the Year recommendations in The Guardian (‘a landmark debut’), Observer, Irish Times, Poetry Review, Poetry London and a Best Books of 2020 inclusion from BBC Culture, among many others. POOR secured the second-most BOTY recommendations across Penguin Press’s titles.

We’re incredibly proud of this campaign, which not only resulted in unprecedented sales for a poetry book and multiple reprints, but most importantly stayed true to Caleb’s message of joy and hope. It won the Publisher’s Publicity Circle Award for Best Debut Campaign and was shortlisted for the British Book Awards Publicity Campaign of the Year.

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