I met Theresa Lola when she performed at the African Literary Evening. She got a standing ovation for her poem ‘Bring Back Our Girls’. She has a mesmerizing power, and you will agree with me that she is incredibly talented. She spoke to Tundun Adeyemo from www.blackandoutspoken.com over the weekend.
Why poetry? How did you get into poetry?
I developed an interest in writing while in primary school after entering a story writing competition set up by the school. In my teenage years, as I began experiencing more things in life, I began to focus on poetry as I felt it was a more intimate and powerful way to express myself.
What is the most that has generated most acclaim for you?
The ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ poem has so far generated for me the most acclaim. It’s a poem written for the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in April 2014. Apart from me, there are a lot of people doing all they can to keep the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ campaign alive so people really connected with the emotions in the poem when they heard it.
Who is your favourite poet?
I have a few who I admire for different reasons. Three of my favourites are Warsan Shire, Aja Monet and Zora Howard.
What books are you reading now?
"Imagine This" by Sade Adeniran, "Americanah" by Chimamanda Adichie, " She Sweats" by Aja Monet.
Are there enough female African poets or spoken word artistes?
A lot of poets are ‘underground’ writers and sometimes unless involved in the stage or other forms of promotion it is hard to tell just how many female African poets there are in the UK. There could be more; however, the few that are in the UK are doing great things with their work and are setting a path and standard for those coming into the spoken word scene.
Who is the most famous artiste you have worked with?
As of now, most of my collaborations have been with either filmmakers or producers. I frequently work a music producer from London known as ‘Kente Kwame’ who has produced music for the likes of Fifi Rong, Elijah Benoit and The Wordstress. In the future, I would love to collaborate with other poets.
Where are you going with your poetry? Is this what you wanted to be when you were younger?
I have always wanted to be a writer. I would love to release a book and someday and hopefully perform full time. Being successful in the world of both spoken word, and written poetry is also my main dream.
What inspires you?
Everything my eyes have seen or my ears have heard, or my hands have touched. Past experiences, along with my childhood and my perspective on life are huge inspirations. My poems are also a reflection of social and political issues in the world today. The desire to be an added voice to these issues inspires me to write about them.
Tell us something about you that you haven't told anybody before ?
Hmm hahaha, I once took karate classes when I was 12, but after noticing the tall people in the karate class and seeing my own small skinny body, I decided to quit.
Are you looking forward to Christmas?
I am very excited. Christmas, it’s such a joyful time of the year. It’s a family tradition every year for us to come together as a family to play games, cook, open presents and just have fun.
Is there a link between poetry and fashion? I see you like fashion as well. I love fashion; both are ways in which I express myself. Finding my own style and finding my own voice in poetry as I got out of my shy shell were similar journeys growing up. Both have blossomed at the same time which is why there are interchangeable tools for me. Fashion is just as powerful, a symbol of an expression. A colour can tell you different emotions based on how a person is wearing it, the same way two poets can write about the same thing, but from different angles.
Any message for those who want to be like you?
Write as much as you can to get your mind into the habit of opening up. Be persistent, network and prioritize.
Everybody has enjoyed the poem about the Chibok girls you wrote why did you write it?
I was first approached by the media platform called ‘Word On The Curb’ to write about a current issue. Upon finding out the youngest girl kidnapped was about 9, I felt an even stronger urge to write a poem ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ on the Chibok Girls. I felt different emotions, sadness, anger and remorse not just for the girls but for their families.
You are working on your book, when should we expect that?
The book should be released before summer of 2015. It’s something I want to take my time with and give it my all.
Where can we find out more about you?
My Twitter handle is @theresa_lola. I have a poetry and fashion blog which is creativeshot.tumblr.com
Thank you so much.