Troy Cabida (he/him) is a Filipino poet, producer, and librarian from south-west London. His recent poems appear in fourteen poems, bath magg, and 100 Queer Poems by Vintage. His debut pamphlet, War Dove, was published in 2020 by Bad Betty Press and he was shortlisted for The Bridport Prize for Poetry 2022. A Barbican Young Poet alumnus, Troy has served as producer for the London-based open mic night Poetry and Shaah and currently works for the National Poetry Library, Southbank Centre.
We met at a poetry night in South West London on Valentine's day where we were both performing. Troy's words addressed good & bad love, queer love, self-love. He read beautiful words beautifully and I invited him to perform at t'ARTopia, a queer-curated performance night that we run every other month in a basement queer bar in Dalston.
In this interview, I speak to Troy about creating in safe spaces, writing a queer body and aesthetic, and building a poetry community.
Illustration: Troy performing at t'ARTopia, drawn by Lucie Arnoux
Can you tell us about your writing process as a poet?
Hi t’ART! My writing process has been quite a mad one lately as I’ve just come out of finishing an undergraduate degree in Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck whilst juggling a full-time job at the National Poetry Library, where I still work, so having these two time consuming responsibilities has meant having to undergo huge adjustments in my writing routine.
I’ve found writing at night to be a good time when the house has gone down for the day. Having the Notes app on the ready when I’m out and about. I’ve become very used to letting out a thought or line in my mind through a free write, and just letting my brain go wherever it needs to go until I feel like I’ve finished and see what I can salvage from that initial mess into a poem.
I also find leaning onto the things that I find comfortable to be really useful when trying to write poems, which I feel is a practice that requires you to be in a safe space at least from a psychic sense. For me, this means accepting the fact that things like pop songs and clothes are really inspiring to me, and that the Freudian and Bourdieusian texts that I’ve just spent the last three years digging into have finally seeped into my brain and have found their way into the formation of new poems.
Your pamphlet War Dove was published by Bad Betty Press. Could you speak a little bit about the pamphlet, as well as the experience of bringing together your work in this way?
War Dove is my first ever published body of poems, and I’ll always be proud of it. The poems in it talk about the first experiences of a queer body after coming out into the heteronormative world, and having to navigate the things they can control, and coming into terms with the things that they cannot control.
The pamphlet is also a love letter to the London poetry scene that I come from at that time, around 2016-2020. All of the poems in this pamphlet would not exist if it weren’t for the poets I’ve become very close friends and co-creators with, and the spaces that we have produced and found community in.
How is your queerness present in your writing?
I feel as though my queerness has become such an intrinsic part of my identity that every poem I have written and will ever write can be considered a queer poem. I really enjoy writing about the mundane and the everyday aspects of my life and declaring that as a queer poem, even if it’s just a poem about me running late for work or deciding on which pair of glasses to buy.
On a more conscious level, I currently write about my relationship with clothing and jewellery and how they may inform my queerness, and vice versa. I’ve always been fascinated by how we wear things and the decision making that goes with what we buy and what we don’t like to put on our body, so approaching that topic with queerness in a heteronormative society in mind has been really fun.
You’ve been part of the Barbican Young Poets and the Roundhouse Poetry Collective. What did these communities do for you/ mean to you as a developing poet?
Being part of the Barbican Young Poets has taught me all about the importance of community, and how community isn’t just a space that you can enter and exit whenever you want. A safe space can only truly be safe if you all work together to make it so, and that’s something that my tutors Jacob Sam-La Rose and Rachel Long taught me from the very beginning, just by being the kind of poets and figures that they were to me then and to this day. I’ve met many of my closest friends in poetry at BYP, and I’m happy to be part of the family. They taught me a lot of the skills I have now as a performer and an editor.
I feel like the same can be said about my time in the Roundhouse, but I would say we doubled down more on the support and solidarity because of the circumstances we were in. We had twice the amount of sessions and took part in retreats and festivals where we not only developed as poets but we also grew to know one another as a true collective, and many of those bonds remain tight and nourishing for me today, as well. Shout outs to our tutors Cecilia Knapp and Bridget Minamore! We were also the COVID cohort so we’ll always have that experience!
Can you recommend three poets (historic or contemporary) for our readers to
take a look at and say a little about why the work of these poets chimes with
Three poets whose work that have been so influential of mine would be Victoria Adukwei Bulley with Quiet, Joe Carrick-Varty with More Sky, and Savannah Brown with closer baby closer.
You can purchase a copy of Troy's pamphlet War Dove here!