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Sumai Yahya in Spot on Young Poets

'Het blauw van de hemel en de zee' - video poem (Dutch spoken)


Writers Unlimited asked eight young people to write a poem on the theme of the online Winternachten festival 2021: It's up to us. All of them previously participated in the Spot on Young Poets programme for secondary school pupils in The Hague and reached the finals of the Young Campert Prize.

Sumai Yahya is a young poet from The Hague who won the Young Campert Prize during the Winternachten festival 2018. He participated Fall 2017 in Spot on Young Poets, the education project of Writers Unlimited, poet and poetry teacher Diann van Faassen and Museum Meermanno | House of the Book.

During poetry workshops at secondary schools in The Hague, pupils are taught poetry writing and recitation. Sumai recited his poem during Winternachten festival 2018 and as one of the three finalists won the Young Campert Prize. At the time, he was a student of Edith Stein College in The Hague.

This year it was not possible to organize the poetry workshops, but Diann van Faassen walked with eight former participants through the parks and streets of The Hague and explored the theme with them. The result is an extraordinary series of video poems created by the young poets themselves. It is a poignant testimony of a generation, full of desire to express their perspective and outlook on life, but hardly able to do so due to the Covid-19 measures. With their imagination, they give a voice to their contemporaries that is usually under-represented in the public debate.

Diann van Faassen chronicled their walk, "When I feel tension, I start writing. It makes me calm." I walk with Sumai Yahya on a cold Sunday afternoon on Marlot estate, close to his home. "Some say art is 'the artist's therapy' and I believe we have energy that needs to be expressed so as not to get frustrated. But I write mainly because I love poetry, it's a passion."

Sumai is unintentionally having a gap year in 2020, he has been accepted into Film Studies at the University in Edinburgh but as he does not yet have the Dutch nationality, this is not possible now. Next year, he hopes to be officially a Dutch citizen. Over five years ago Sumai fled Syria with his family. "I feel most comfortable in international groups. There is more space there to be who you are, in the conversations with my Dutch friends I still sometimes feel like a stranger." He now continues to work at home to advance in film, poetry and photography; he does miss traveling. "About 'It's up to us' I also think of all that is not up to us, all that happens and the circumstances that make people follow a certain path."

Sumai participated in Spot on Young Poets in 2018 and received the Young Campert Prize for his poem. He attended Edith Stein College, which he left later that year to continue his education in Maastricht with additional subjects such as film, Arabic and Global Politics."