Sonny Hall, a south London born poet, is the co-founder of independent publishing house and poetry club Blue Beggar Books. Beginning his career as a model after being scouted in 2014, Hall first collaborated with Nick Knight, Rei Nadal and SHOWstudio on the fashion film Yungsters in 2015. Now represented by Kate Moss's modelling agency, Hall has graced the pages of GQ, LOVE and Vogue Italia. But this young man is so much more than charming good looks.
In 2019, Hall self-published his first book The Blues Comes With Good News, an anthology of 109 poems which was printed in a second edition by Hodder & Stoughton soon after. A little over a year later, Hall co-founded Blue Beggar Books with Ryan Kevin Doyle, conceiving what Hall describes over the phone as 'a democratised framework for creative collectives and communities'. Hall is delightfully humble when talking about this venture. 'Even as a published poet I don't have a fucking clue' he laughs. Functioning outside of the often snooty, hierarchical and armoured world of publishing, Hall has an appetite for discovering the wordsmiths who haven't yet made it up the golden ladder, and Blue Beggar Books will take open submissions later this year.
Today, Blue Beggar Books release their first title Introducing The Beggar for pre-order. The 40 page long booklet lays out the framework for the lesser known poets, writers and illustrators to come; this introductory book is intended as 'a handshake to the receiver, [to] anyone who wants to be part of the community'. Hall and Doyle invited established writers and creative minds of all different ilks to contribute; Greta Bellamacina, James Massiah, Pete Doherty, Caleb Femi, Jemima Foxtrot, Inua Ellams, Clarie Trevien, Luke Wright, Ollie Feather, Jimmy Lux Fox and Thea Gajic are amongst those who present unseen works. The book also features a series of rather brilliant and naive illustrations by Leanne Shapton and Jack Laver.
Curating the contributions, Hall explains that 'you've got to be really open and tap into every part of society to get people eager to share their work and hear people's voices. I guess that's what introducing the Beggar is doing'. There's Gajic's poem London Boy about her newborn son and motherhood, then Hall's own contribution about motherly love as lacking in his own life. The anthology of works quite literally come full circle, linked by their sincere and often brutally raw nature.
There's a certain urgency to Hall's own poetry. 'Being a writer, my whole life is surrounded by reading or writing - it's the only way I can really get through the day' he explains. One senses that the very act of writing moors him to safety and prevents him from floating adrift. Poetry's beauty and strength is in the dark underbelly it holds for the inner demons within us all, each line untangling the weeded thoughts in our unconscious minds. Hall's work explores love and self-destruction, identity, addiction and recovery. It's matter of fact and doesn't shy from the truth - he's even been called the 'poetry poster boy' for a new generation, whatever that may mean. If anything, he's showing boys and young men to not be afraid to dive deep, to show their wounds. There's a wiseness to his words which unflinchingly face up to life taken at face value.
In recent years, Hall has generously shared his words and time with SHOWstudio, sitting down in conversation with Fat Tony to discuss sobriety, and giving an intimate poetry reading about losing his biological mother when he was 17 years old. It was after her death when Hall first found poetry; he began putting pen to paper whilst in treatment for alcohol and drug addiction. From the collected journals of The Libertine's frontman Pete Doherty to the writings of American artist Henry Miller, Hall soon found himself head over heels with confessional poetry.
'The brotherhood of man consists not in thinking alike, nor in acting alike, but in aspiring to praise creation...The outer man dies away in order to reveal the golden bird which is winging its way toward divinity' Henry Miller, The Time of the Assassins: a Study of Rimbaud (1946)
Hall notably refers to Blue Beggar Books as a 'crusade'; this is a charged and gallant campaign to rediscover proper poetry. Hall wanted to provide a space for honesty and sincerity, away from the quick fire dopamine hits of Instagram. 'People don't want to be open to being shocked to the real truths...nowadays its all social media and its the individual creative or influencer or whatever- the substance is what they present to the world and not what they actually feel. It's all a bit of a charade...it lacks communication. Everyone, really, needs that sincerity and connection within what they're doing. [Blue Beggar Books] is breaking away from that stuff and really going into the more confessional side. [At the same time] I didn't want to be too biased with it, there's also other elements to poetry that are great without that.'
Poetry can be a liberating force, and often the most powerful words come not only out of desperation, but also from hope. 'We founded the project about a month ago on a whim, like most hopeful things come about' Hall tells me. 'Writing is so introspective and it can become quite self-serving, if you're not wanting to correspond with other creatives.' Immersing himself into dialogues with other writers and creative minds was a revealing and positive experience. 'The whole house is about bringing people together in a way that has no boundaries, so conversations can happen.' We humans are rather lonely islands, and Blue Beggar Books is tentatively tying us back together.