In 2021 HOLT appointed Arnaud-William Mbaki as London’s Poet for Places. Arnaud spent the summer working with young people to share his enthusiasm for London’s heritage, creating poems and spoken word about places that inspire him.

Listen to Arnaud speaking above about his own background and thoughts on identity and rootedness, and how writing has helped define who he is.



Poet for Places Arnaud William Mbaki

We asked Arnaud a few questions...

What are you most looking forward to as Poet for Places?


Working with people younger than me and inspiring them. I want to show them that London is more than they think it is, it’s more than just hipster culture. Showing them that there are more options in this global world right now, there's a lot we can do and see.

Who are your favourite poets?


They would have to be Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes. Dickinson’s style is more personal, dealing with time and death, whereas Hughes’ poetry was more expressive - something that needs to be performed, something that is asking to be performed. I want to take those styles and mix them together in my own work.


Has growing up speaking different languages affected your writing?


English was one of my priorities as a kid because I read a lot, a LOT! I started to forget French and trying to express myself in English became one of my main priorities. Conversationally I was a bit too academic so I had to learn different ways to express myself without being too tight.

What has been a significant place for you so far?


My favourite site is still Northumberland House Arch. That was where I got introduced to everyone and found out how London's history is overlooked. The journeys that stemmed from that started it all.