The Mathematics of Survival

Explosive, brutal and searingly honest - a vision of contemporary living told through poetry and stories by students at Newham Sixth Form College.

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Two writers. Two groups. One anthology!

In 2016, the brilliant Kat Lewis and Joelle Taylor worked with students at Newham Sixth Form College (NewVIc) on a new project, bringing young people’s visions of the world they live in to life through a series of workshops toying with poetic form, politics, music, performance and more.

Kat Lewis worked with students in the mainstream college, and Joelle Taylor worked with students on NewVIc’s Step Up programme for young people excluded from or not ready for mainstream educational pathways.

The resulting vivid poems and stories have been published in an anthology of writing entitled The Mathematics of Survival. Continuing in the vein of PEN’s activism and campaigning work, this writing challenges the wrongs of the world as we know it today, with young voices raised up in defiance against social inequality in the UK, Islamophobia, negative portrayals of migration and mental health and more. It is also heaped with creativity and inventiveness, with lots of the writers playing with poetic form.

The Mathematics of Survival was launched at an event at NewVIc on 24 January 2017, with readings from contributing students, facilitators and a special thank you from Eddie Playfair, Principle of NewVIc.

Joelle Taylor said:

I spent an inspiring 6 weeks working at New Vic college with the Step Up group – 2 separate groups of young people who wanted to work on their English and their control of it on a page. It was a powerful experience, one in which we each traded life stories and dreams and tried to make them sit still on a piece of paper. Whilst I was there to enhance their appreciation of reading and writing, the real purpose perhaps was to encourage them to write the book that they wanted to read. Here it is. Whether you contributed 5 poems or one, this is your book. Read it in public. Read it loud.

Kat Lewis said:

At such uncertain times it is a privilege to come to New VIc where it’s clear that hate is a lack of imagination. The sparkling talent in this group of young writers is fed by their fresh and curious eyes. I believe in a future where these voices are loud.

Eddie Playfair said:

Poetry gives our language the wings to fly and in difficult times we need strong wings. Starting with just the alphabet, the poetic form allows our ideas to soar. Just like those in our previous anthologies, the poems in this collection launch themselves off the page with power and passion – refusing to be held down.

Thank you to these young poets for their contribution to the algebra of humanity starting with just the mathematics of survival.

Read The Mathematics of Survival

Huge thanks to the Robert Gavron Charitable Trust and Newham Sixth Form College for funding this project.

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